A farm worker who showed up for work at the Lyons Bridge Farm Tuesday morning discovered that a home deep in the woods behind the farm property had been completely gutted by a fire that was still burning when he arrived. Fire investigators spent the whole day sifting through the debris for any sign of the elderly occupant, Ed McKeon.
According to Coroner Gene Proctor, McKeon was still unaccounted for late Tuesday night.
Property owner Wes Walraven, speaking by phone to the Rome News-Tribune from New York, said a security camera that was close to a mile away, captured “huge, huge flames,” about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Walraven said Ed McKeon had lived there for about 35 years. When Walraven bought the property he agreed to let McKeon, a retired antiques appraiser, continue to live there.
McKeon did not have a whole lot of close friends locally, according to Walraven, who checked with two people McKeon most likely would have been with if he was not at the home. One had not seen him and the other had been at the house with McKeon Monday night but had left prior to the fire.
“If he wasn’t with either of them I’m not terribly optimistic,” Walraven said.
About a dozen bone fragments were picked out of the debris and will be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab to determine if the fragments were human or animal.
Floyd County Coroner Gene Proctor said the bone fragments were burned pretty badly.
“We’ll package those and get them down to the GBI Crime Lab and let the GBI do a regenerative DNA test,” Proctor said. The first thing they’ll look for is to see if they are animal or human. At that point they’ll try to regenerate them to try to get some DNA out of them, however microscopic it may be.”
“Right now it’s a missing person case because we don’t have a body,” Proctor said. “We don’t know if anybody actually was in there. We do have some bones and we’re proceeding from there. Most of the time in these cases you’re looking at least a year’s turn around before you get an actual answer."
Two Great Pyrenees dogs that McKeon owned were ultimately found Tuesday, however a small house dog, which Proctor said may have been a Jack Russell terrier, still had not been found.
Charles Miller, an investigator with the Floyd County Police, said the investigation will continue in conjunction with the Fire Marshal’s office probe to find a cause for the fire.