Family members trade blame in death of 2 children in fire - News, Weather & Sports


Family members trade blame in death of 2 children in fire

© Richmond News/David Knopf © Richmond News/David Knopf
© Richmond News/David Knopf © Richmond News/David Knopf

As state investigators probe the cause of a fire that claimed the lives of two boys, family members are trading accusations and blame.

Roger Garrison, 3, and his 1-year-old brother, Ashton, died in Tuesday's fire. Their distraught father, Randy Garrison, on Tuesday night described his futile efforts to pull his two sons from their burning bedroom.

Garrison suffered burns to his hands and the back of his neck. KCTV5's Betsy Webster saw blisters on his hands and his hair was singed.

He also raised questions about the behavior of their mother.

Their maternal grandmother came to KCTV5 on Wednesday to stand up for her daughter, Tamara Willis, and provided her version of events.

Officials are incredibly tight-lipped about the fire, which occurred near Orrick.

Ray County Sheriff Garry Bush said both parents are extremely distraught, and the children's mother was taken in for a mental evaluation after the fire occurred.

Marjorie Long said her daughter is bi-polar and needed treatment after driving to the scene and becoming distraught over the loss of her children. Long said Willis had left the home to run an errand.

"She was quite clearly upset," an emotional Long said. "Several of the firemen, police were holding her back because she was wanting to run into the still burning remains of the house to get them."

She said the family is struggling to cope, and appreciates the love and support that they are receiving.

"You have to go forward," she said while crying. "You just have to."

Garrison was at the charred remains of the home Tuesday night and returned again on Wednesday. He said he had hoped to find items belonging to his sons.

When he spoke to reporters Tuesday night, Garrison described the boys as his rock, saying they were the reason he got up every day.

"Don't look at me like I'm a bad father. I'm not a bad father. My kids were everything to me," he said. "Imagine being a parent and waking up hearing your kids screaming and their whole bedroom is on fire and you can't do anything ... I tried everything I could to rescue everything I had in life, my two babies."

The fire was reported about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the home in the 9600 block of Shach Creek Road, which is just west of Route O near Orrick. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

KMZU spoke with Ray County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Brian Bush, who offered limited details.

"There was a male subject that came out of the house. He advised that there could be two more subjects inside the residence. And since then two juveniles have been located in [there] at this time," he said Tuesday.

Garrison said he lived at the home with his children and Willis. He said he and Willis still lived together for the sake of the children even though their romantic relationship had ended.

Garrison told KCTV5 that he had come home from an overnight job about 6 a.m. He said his two children and their mother were in the living room when he went to sleep.

He said he is a sound sleeper. He said his boys' screams woke him up. He said there were flames and smoke throughout the house.

"It was the worst thing you can ever hear in your life to hear your kids screaming like that," he said.

He said he tripped over something while racing to his boys' bedroom. He said he tried to open the door but found it tied shut with something that he said looked like a bungee cord.

He said he escaped the house and ran outside. He said he tried to punch holes in the walls to get to his boys but couldn't.

Garrison said he named his oldest son after his younger brother, Roger, who died in a trailer fire in 1989 at age 5.

He said the boys' mother wasn't in the home when he was trying to rescue the boys, and he doesn't know where she was. He said he has refused to speak to her since the fire.

He and his family members made veiled accusations toward Willis in interviews and on social media.

For her part, Long raised questions about comments made by Garrison.

She said her daughter woke Garrison up before leaving the house, telling him she had an appointment to go to. Long said her daughter claims Garrison went outside to have a cigarette and came back in.

"When she left, the boys were in the living room and Randy was awake," Long said, adding her daughter left hours before the fire started.

Long said the boys were found in the living room, not the bedroom as Garrison claimed.

"The kids were in the living room. They were found by firemen in the living room. She did not put a cord on the door. The reason why I'm talking to you guys. . .  is to point out the inconsistencies of what was said last night and today."

She also raised questions about Garrison's bungee-cord claiming, saying it didn't add up.

She said she doesn't know how the fire started, but said the Missouri Fire Marshal's Office is investigating because "they think something was not quite right."

Additional fire departments assisted at the scene. The Missouri Highway Patrol also assisted.

KCTV5's Erika Tallan, Chris Oberholtz, Liz Manninger, Dave Jordan and Heather Staggers contributed to this report.

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