Probe continues after Bledsoe County woman dies in house fire hours before court date

Probe continues after Bledsoe County woman dies in house fire hours before court date

September 8th, 2011 by Ben Benton in News

The scene at the Bledsoe County home of Hazel Louise Reece on July 25. A contractor discovered Reece's home burned to the ground and authorities found Reece's body inside. The fire and Reece's death are under investigation.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Bledsoe County authorities this week are continuing a probe into a July 25 house fire after which a woman's body was found inside the structure.

Sheriff's office Investigator Ricky Seals said Tuesday that officials so far have neither ruled out foul play nor confirmed that anything suspicious happened in the fire.

On July 25, a contractor found the home of Hazel Louise Reece, 63, burned to the ground with her inside, officials said. Reece had told family members in the days before the fire she saw straw stuffed under her house and was worried that someone might try to burn her in her home.

Seals said Tuesday that he couldn't discuss details yet but that interviews probably will continue through the week.

Bledsoe authorities have been unusually busy this summer with the investigation of a double slaying that came a few days after the fire and Reece's death.

Two elderly sisters, Elizabeth Brown, 82, and Billie Sue Blaylock, 79, were found shot dead at a home on Mill Dam Road on Aug. 16. Brown's daughter-in-law, Brenda K. Brown, 47, was charged Aug. 24 with two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings.

Authorities said Tuesday that no bond has been set for Brenda Brown and an arraignment hearing is pending.

Officials are working out a date for Rhea County General Sessions Judge Jim McKenzie to preside over Brenda Brown's arraignment and any motions in her case, Bledsoe County Circuit Court Clerk Michael Walker said.

During a hearing Aug. 26 to assign Brenda Brown's legal counsel, Bledsoe County General Sessions Judge Howard Upchurch recused himself from the case because he had represented the sisters recently in a change of their wills and earlier had represented Brenda Brown in another case, he said.

Upchurch appointed the public defender's office to represent Brenda Brown before removing himself from proceedings.