Fire marshal rules Ethel house fire arson-suicide
EAST FELICIANA – Investigators say the man found dead after a house fire in Ethel earlier this month set the blaze and then shot himself.
James Gilliland, 59, had lost his job and after years of a lease-to-own deal with the owners, he could no longer afford the rent, investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office and East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office learned.
Gilliland started the fire in the wood-framed house in the 9800 block of Battle Road, and then fatally shot himself inside the house, authorities said. The handgun he used was found with his body.
Evidence from the fire scene and the autopsy results pointed toward the arson/suicide conclusion, authorities said.
The house, owned by a couple from Tennessee, was destroyed in the March 18 blaze.
Investigators learned that Gilliland had leased the house for years and informed the owners months ago that he had lost his job, preventing him from affording the payments.
Gilliland had signed over ownership of appliances and other items he had bought for the house to cover the rent for several months. Those things were also destroyed in the fire.
Gilliland was expected to move out of the house by noon on the day of the fire.
The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab and the East Felciana Parish Coroner's Office assisted in the investigation.
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