Man claimed in Sampson house fire

By Chris Berendt - [email protected]
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NEWTON GROVE — A male resident was killed in an early-morning fire Tuesday at his home on Harnett-Dunn Highway, where officials with the Sampson County Fire Marshal’s Office and N.C. State Bureau of Investigation remained on scene throughout the day investigating the cause of the deadly blaze.

The call came of the fire came in at 2:45 a.m. Tuesday. The Sampson County E-911 Center received a report of a structure fire at 3172 Harnett-Dunn Highway, Newton Grove, and responding firefighters found the house fully involved. Fire departments from Newton Grove, Spivey’s Corner, Plainview, Vann Crossroads in Sampson and Meadow in Johnston County responded along with Sampson County EMS, Newton Grove Rescue and Suttontown Rescue.

“A passerby saw a fire at the residence and called it in,” said Newton Grove Fire Chief Lee Wilson. “There was smoke and fire throughout the residence when we got there.”

Firefighters discovered a body in the residence while extinguishing the fire. He has since been identified as residence owner Jimmy Lee, 52.

Lee’s official cause of death is pending the Medical Examiners autopsy. Further information on the fire was pending the results of that autopsy, analysis of the physical evidence and potential witness interviews.

Due to the unknown origin of the fire, investigators from the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, the Sampson County Fire Marshal’s Office and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation were called in to conduct an investigation.

Wilson said the male occupant was the only one inside the home at the time, however it was unclear whether he lived there alone.

“Last night, it was just one individual staying at the house,” said Wilson.

The cause was undetermined as of Tuesday afternoon and Wilson said that no conclusion would likely be reached Tuesday, and maybe not until later this week.

“We’re still on scene monitoring hot spots and assisting with the investigation,” Wilson noted of the old single-story house, which he said was the site of several additions over the years.

Calls to the Sampson County Fire Marshal’s Office were not immediately returned. The fire comes just a month after another deadly fire in the Newton Grove area on Dec. 21.

Joyce Annette Batts, 66, of 115 Daybreak Lane, Newton Grove, was killed in that fire. Neighbors reported the blaze, and informed authorities of the possibility of a woman inside when they arrived. Batts lived with her daughter, Leslie Batts, who was not home at the time of the fire. That cause was determined as accidental.

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Cause not yet determined

By Chris Berendt

[email protected]

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.