What started as a possible accidental house fire at 62 Silver Run Drive in Seale , Ala., has led to the first two homicides of 2019 in Russell County, the sheriff said Wednesday.
Results from autopsies show William Perry, 65, and his companion, Deborah Peay, 50, died of gunshot wounds before a passer-by reported a 9:53 p.m. Sunday fire in their rented home, Sheriff Heath Taylor said during a 10 a.m. news conference. Both bodies were badly burned almost beyond recognition.
The direction of the investigation changed after results were released by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery. “Both of our bodies died from gunshot wounds and not a fire,” the sheriff said. “Both of our bodies had no smoke inhalation in their lungs.”
A motive in the deaths is shaky, the sheriff said, but Peay’s 2001 Silver Honda is missing with Alabama tag, 57DB 175. The vehicle had some mechanical issues.
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“Other than the theft of the vehicle, we don’t know a whole lot of what the motive could be at this point,” Taylor said. “There is just not a lot in their history that says an obvious.”
Anyone who spots the vehicle should call the sheriff’s office. “If you see the vehicle anywhere it’s not supposed to be, we would like for someone to call,” he said. “Any infomation the public can give us on this case, we would love to have. We will be working around the clock, hopefully until we get a break on this case. “
“We have a couple of suspects, a couple of different leads we are working and hopefully we will be able to turn that into some solid suspects and arrest warrants in the next few days,” Taylor said.
Deputies recovered two shell casings at the scene. The weapon is believed to be a .32-caliber or .380 caliber type pistol. If a weapon is recovered, it can be matched to rounds found at the scene.
A deputy was on the scene of the house fire within three minutes after the passer-by report. In a preliminary investigation, the state fire marshal said an accelerant was doused in the living room and throughout the house before the fire was ignited. A sample has been sent to the lab for testing to determine the type of accelerant.
“We do believe it started in the den and that’s based on charring and the burn pattern,” the sheriff said. The house was located behind the White Spot convenience store. Deputies will be looking at video from the business over the next two days for clues in the case.
Investigators don’t know how many suspects are involved but they are treating the case as if there are multiple suspects. “If that narrows down to just one, that is where the case is going to lead,” the sheriff said.
The couple had lived together in the house for about 18 months. The property owner said they were perfect tenants, Taylor said. They kept the place clean and paid their rent on time.
Perry had lived in New York for about 15 years, worked at Walmart and returned to Russell County after he retired. Peay of New York came to live with Perry about two or three years ago, the sheriff said.
Although the deaths are the first for Russell County this year, Taylor said the community is safe.
“We have a great history here in Russell County by not having these type cases happen very often and when we do, we work our tails off to solve,” he said. “That is not going to be any different in this case. We are not going to sleep until we have someone in custody if at all possible. I feel like we do have a safe community. “