COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ark. (KTAL) — The Columbia County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a car fire that happened Monday as a double homicide.
According to an incident report, a deputy was dispatched Monday to County 11 in reference to a wreck near Weyerhaeuser Timberland Company. Dispatch received two calls. The first call was received at 12:20 p.m. of a single-car accident with no personal injuries. At 12:36 p.m., a second call came in stating the car was on fire and appeared to be two deceased people inside.
The coroner’s office confirmed the two bodies were that of Jermillian Daniels and his wife, Janice Daniels. The couple had been married for almost six years.
Both sides of the family spent much of the day figuring out the cause of the incident. According to investigators, the couple lives about 4 miles down from the scene on County Road 32.
They believe the incident occurred at the stop sign of the intersection of County Road 32 and County Road 11 before the car ended up across the road. According to the Magnolia Banner News, the front end of the car was nudged near a few small trees at the intersection.
While at the scene, one man who lives in the area said he and another guy tried to get the couple out. He said they had to bust the window with a hammer but were unable to open the car door. He said he did notice the victims appeared to be suffering from gunshot wounds but didn’t specify where.
When investigators arrived, they said the car was fully engulfed in flames on the front, top and the passenger side and it was spreading to the driver’s side. The Magnolia Banner News reported a Columbia County Ambulance was called in carrying pneumatic and electric power tools to remove the doors from the car.
Calhoun Fire Department arrived at the location and extinguished the fire. An investigator said it started on the passenger side and was caused by the catalytic converter underneath the car.
There appeared to be skid marks headed near the direction of where the car ended up but investigators didn’t say if those marks were from the car or if the marks had already been there prior to Monday.
According to family members, the couple was supposed to be heading to the VA Hospital in Texarkana for an appointment that was scheduled for 11 a.m.
The family spent the day coming up with a timeline and a possible motive as to what caused all of this. The couple had three children and were also taking care of two nieces.
Mr. Daniels was a retired United States Army Veteran and currently worked for the United States Postal Service. Mrs. Daniels was a school teacher at Walker Pre-Kindergarten Center. She was named teacher of the year in 2016.
Investigators didn’t say if one of the two made the initial phone call to dispatch at 12:20 p.m. or a passerby. No information was given about a gun being recovered.
Daniels’ neighbor said she was still trying to process what happened. The couple would often come to their house and chat or engage in a conversation if they were all outside.
Deputies are still awaiting an official cause of death though they said it’s being treated as a homicide case because the injuries weren’t natural. This is a developing story.