Authorities Say Fire That Killed Guthrie Center Girls Was Arson

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GUTHRIE CENTER, Iowa  —  A criminal investigation is now underway into the deaths of two girls killed in a house fire in Guthrie Center on Monday.

16-year old Shakiah Cockerham and 12-year-old Paige Exline were killed when the home caught fire early on Monday morning.  The girls’ uncle, 54-year old William Long III, suffered severe burns in the fire and remains hospitalized in Omaha.  The girls’ grandmother, 74-year-old Shirley Exline, suffered minor injuries.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office says the fire was the result of arson.  The Division of Criminal Investigation has now launched a criminal investigation.

Firefighters were called to the home early in the morning on May 15th.  When they arrived they found it fully engulfed in flames.  They say it would have been impossible to try to enter the home to search for the girls.  The home did not have working smoke detectors.