The 2 stories of Mr. Patterson | Inside the fatal Tucker fire investigation

Just before Valentine’s Day 2016, nearly an entire family perished inside a Tucker, Ga., house fire, leaving one man as the sole survivor. Newly released interviews, videos, phone calls and investigators’ reports from the case file reveal two stories given by Brent Patterson.  But which one is the truth? .

New information in the fatal fire that killed a mother and her two daughters.

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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. – Just before Valentine’s Day 2016, nearly an entire family perished inside a Tucker, Ga., house fire, leaving one man as the sole survivor. Newly released interviews, videos, phone calls and investigators’ reports from the case file reveal two stories given by Brent Patterson. But which one is the truth?

While the case is closed; unable to definitively solve how the house fire killed a mother, Kathy Patterson, 36, and her two daughters, Kayla, 12, and Madeline, 9—for some investigators, the cloud of doubt lingers over the 54-year-old widower.

In a May 5 report, Gwinnett County investigators call, “a summary of information that could prove his culpability and motive to commit the arson,” shows the timeline of witness reports from the day of the fire—as well as in the months following, including interviews with family, friends and acquaintances from school, church, the neighborhood and two adult entertainment dance clubs.

Witness after witness indicated that there were mental and physical health issues, severe drinking and arguing inside the home, while portraying a “perfect life” from the outside.

In videotaped interviews obtained from Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter by 11Alive, Patterson gives investigators a different story than the night of the fire. But the detectives don’t buy his self-proclaimed failure to recollect what happened.

MORE| Mother killed in fire led special needs dance group

January 2016

In the weeks leading up to the fire, multiple 911 calls are placed from the Tucker house—including two calls pertaining to Kathy’s wellbeing and two calls from Brent.

“They’ve already came [sic] out here once. We had the carbon monoxide alarm going off and I went and I bought a new one from Home Depot. And this one went off one time and then it stopped—but I’m a little bit concerned and I’ve got to go to work, I’m a restaurant manager… and, I’m just concerned. I don’t want to leave my family here and come home find them dead.”


Jan. 17, 2016

A woman inside the Patterson home calls 911.

“She’s passed out and the kids are all…” she relays frantically.

“OK, ma'am, who’s passed out? Who’s passed out?” the dispatch operator asks.

“The lady that owns the house. The lady…”

“You’re going to have to calm down… How old is she? Ma'am, how old is she?”

“Kathy is 35,” she finally answers, the background noise is chaotic and distracting.

“Is she awake right now?” the operator pleads.

“No.

“Is she breathing?”

“No… let me put you on with somebody who knows the medical situation.”

*****

“Hello?”

“OK, I need to know if she’s breathing?”

“Yes.”

“OK, she is breathing?”

“Yes, she is.”

“Is she breathing normally?”

“Yes.”

“…We’ll be there shortly. If she gets any worse, call us back.”

FROM INVESTIGATOR'S REPORT: The friend went to the hospital with Kathy and stayed with her. Someone called Brent and he came to the hospital. She said he “glared” at her and went into the room with Kathy and “slammed” the door. After that, she said, Kathy no longer talked to her.

Another call comes into the Gwinnett County dispatch center from the Patterson home.

“My daughter fell down her stairs… she’s in so much pain, I’m afraid to move her,” Kathy’s mother tells the operator. 


Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016

A fire breaks out at 1079 Pointer Ridge just before 9 p.m.

A man calls 911.

He doesn’t see anyone, but he sets sights on his neighbor’s house in full blaze.

“House is on fire! There’s kids trapped inside!” he says to the 911 dispatch operator.

“The house is on fire?” she asks.

“Yes, everybody is trapped inside. They’re not responding…”

“Do you see flames?” she questions, vying for information.

“Yes, ma'am. They’re way above the house. I mean it’s literally burning down. They’re trapped inside.”

“How many people?”

“Four at least.”

 
When rescue crews arrive, Brent is outside.

First-responding Gwinnett County Police Officers Tran and Hardiman arrive. They are the first to speak to Brent, who is across the street from his house, wearing nothing but white underwear, and screaming.

Tran hears Brent crying and yelling, so he approaches him, asking him where the other people are. Brent is standing with two other men who are trying to calm him down as he tells the officer that his family is trapped inside still.

But he continues to scream.

“They are dead; they are dead.”

Hardiman makes contact with Brent, who has black stains around his mouth and nose and asks the officer, “What are you going to do? You’re not the fire department.”

The officers dart to the backyard, searching for any victims who may have jumped out of a window. Finding no victims in the backyard, they bolted back to Brent to aid him.

He cries to the officers, “My life is now over… They’re all dead!”

Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Fabrice Muret is next on the scene. As he approaches the house on foot, he sees a police officer coming from the side of the house. Muret engages, asking if he has seen anyone else from inside the house. He tells him, “No.”

Muret catches a glimpse of a disheveled Brent across the street on the lawn. He’s punching the grass and saying, “I lost my whole family.”

The deputy walks over to him and asks him if anyone else was in the house and he reiterates, “My wife and kids are upstairs.”

Muret tells the police officer and together they look up at the house’s upper windows in the front of the house.

The front door is wide open and they can see the staircase and flames protruding from the bottom floor. Most of the fire is stemming from the left side of the stairs.

Moments later, the entire main level of the house is fully engulfed. Smoke begins viciously billowing from the roof.

Just before the fire department loads Brent onto the stretcher, Brent calms down and officers can ask him what happened.

Brent tells them that he was upstairs with his family getting ready for bed when he heard a popping sound downstairs. He says that he went down the stairs and saw smoke and fire on the first floor. He opened the front door of the house, and it went up in flames, to the extent that he could not get back up the stairs.

Upon finishing his account of the incident, he remains silent for about 20 seconds and stares at the ground. He looks in to Hardiman’s eyes and says, “I want to die.”


Feb. 10, 2016

Brent’s brother-in-law takes him back to the house at 8 a.m., the following day to meet with the insurance agent. Upon arriving, he speaks to fire officials about the fire.

The insurance agent hands Brent a check for $5,000.


Feb. 11, 2016

Just outside the charred remains of his home, Brent reflects on his loss to the media.

“This is the only place I can come to be with them,” Brent says, visibly distraught just two days after his family is killed in the fatal fire. “This is all I have left, this is it. I don't know what else to do; this is where they are.”

Standing beside a memorial of teddy bears and balloons, Brent says that seeing the school bus drive by in the morning is a painful reminder that his kids are never coming back.

Moments later, that bus drives by.

“They were the best,” a tearful Brent says. “Why take them?”

Grieving father: 'They were the best. Why take them?'

 

Feb. 17, 2016

Brent originally tells fire investigators it’s all his fault.

“My family got burned in a fire. How can you ever forgive yourself for that? How can you ever forgive yourself for that?”

Eight days later, he would meet with investigators and his story would change.

******

REPORT:
Story No. 1- Night of the fire |
Brent was upstairs with his family getting ready for bed when he heard a popping sound downstairs. He went down the stairs and saw smoke and fire on the fire floor. He opened the front door of the house and it went up in flames, to the extent that he could not get back up the stairs.

Story No. 2- Following fire |
Brent was upstairs with his family and everyone was in bed. He heard a loud popping news that sounded like it came from outside. He ran down the stairs, where he saw no fire and no smoke inside the house. He opened the front door and the house burst into flames.

“We knew that his accounts were not only inconsistent with each other, but they were inconsistent with the nature of the fire. The fire experts involved in the case believed that for the house to have been hot enough to match his first story, and ready for a flash over, he would have been severely burned coming down the stairs, if he made it down the stairs at all. They believed that the second account was not plausible given the fact that there was no evidence the house exploded,” J.P. Wilbanks noted in the report. 

They believe that while at the house, days following the fire, he overheard hypotheses from fire and insurance officials that “may have influenced some of those statements… the second account given to the fire department seems to be the result of tailoring his account to fit what he had heard.”

******

Brent meets with investigators at approximately 12:30 p.m., lasting for about an hour—but ends the meeting abruptly.

He fidgets in the chair, repeatedly placing both hands, wide open on the table to explain why he cannot remember the night of the fire like he did then.

On his left ring finger, he still wears his wedding ring.

“I don’t remember at all. I don’t remember that night, my memory started… I guess it’s being blocked out. I don’t remember breaking out the back glass. I know I did it. I don’t remember what happened. I remember being in the ambulance being really, really angry and upset that I couldn’t help. That’s all I remember,” he tells the blonde investigator, Sara Redmond.

She probes him about his daily routine, specifically what he did the day of the fire with his family.

Working in restaurant management, he tells her that he is usually off Tuesdays and Wednesdays – but, that when he works, he works long hours. But he says, his family was his top priority, including taking his daughters to school every morning.

“I took them to school every morning because Kathy made me. She wouldn’t let anyone else take them to school.”

She took them to school, he concedes, “sometimes… when she wanted to get up.”

That morning was no different for him and his children, he says calmly.

After taking them to school, he notes to the investigator that he and Kathy went to social security office to change her name, because his employee repeatedly warned him that if she didn’t change her name, she wouldn’t receive his social security. There was nowhere to park, so they skipped it and went to lunch.

After lunch, they went to Walmart to buy “healthy” groceries and went home.

He adds colorful detail about his day, shifting in his chair with his arms on the table and his hands folded together.

After both he and Kathy went to pick up the girls from school that afternoon, he says, he ran back out for mayonnaise for sandwiches. He nabbed some hot chocolate as well.

He arrived back home, parked the van in the garage and the kids went outside to play after finishing their homework.

“They were so happy. They were so happy,” he remembers.

He left the house again to get chicken for dinner.

“I take a lot of trips; I can’t sit still. I have to have something to do,” he admits.

Case files reveal new details in fatal Tucker fire.

When it got dark at 6:30 p.m., he says, the kids came inside and ate. With Brent and Kathy, they watched a movie downstairs on their big-screen T.V. He doesn’t remember which movie.

“Everything I watched was for the kids. What am I going to watch now? What am I going to do? Ya know? What am I going to do? There’s nothing to watch,” he says softly to the investigator.

After the movie, he says, they all went to bed at 8 p.m., including Kathy, whom he said was on a lot of medications. However, he cannot recall what prescriptions she took, but did say that they made her “really sleepy.”

“Once she took her meds, she was done,” he says.

Approximately 30 minutes later, he says, he heard a loud noise.

He opened the bedroom door, ran downstairs and opened the front door—illuminated by a light. He continued outside and says he heard a “whoosh.”

“[I] opened the door, stepped outside, looked around… what am I going to see? I’m blind without contacts,” he says.

Once he checked it out, he says, he attempted to go back inside the house, but could not because of the tremendous heat that the fire was already projecting.

“It was a ball of flames. It was just like an inferno,” he says. “It was just instantaneous.”

At that moment, he says, his neighbor came over with a shovel to help bust down the door. He used it to shatter the door’s glass.

He trails off on a disparaging memory.

“It was so hard after the first few days. I kept thinking, ‘Why didn’t I die with them?’ And I still don’t know why I didn’t,” he says.

And just as quickly, reverts to his effort to re-enter the house.

“I couldn’t get back. There’s nothing worse. Nothing worse. You’re helpless, you’re helpless,” he says.

But, he says, he knows there’s nothing more that he could have done that night.

“There’s nothing I could’ve done. I know that now… it doesn’t make me able to forgive myself.”

He lapses into what-ifs.

“What if I didn’t go outside? We would’ve all died inside.”

He tells Redmond that he doesn’t believe that his family had a chance of surviving, because his wife took her medications and he says, “I know she didn’t wake up.”

“I’m hoping to God my kids were asleep. I have to believe that,” he says.

Then, a new memory, he claims that he is just recalling.

He says that he yelled, “Get out! Get out! Get out!”

But again, he reiterates, when his family was sleeping, they were out for the night.

He slams his hand on the table, as his other hand rests on his chin and says, “What can you do?”

“And you didn’t have anything to do with?” the investigator questions him.

“Nah…” he answers. “I would have either died with them—which I wanted for a long time, I really did...”

*****

REPORT: According to the District Attorney’s investigators’ report, on the night of the fire, neighbors called 911. They said they heard shouting, “Get out of the house!” By the time that they got to the Pattersons’ home, the house was engulfed in flames, which were shooting out the windows on the left side of the house. They didn’t talk to Brent that night. A few days later, he told them he went downstairs, opened the door and the fire “took from there.”

“The information obtained from the [neighbors] and the 911 call that they made is critical in this investigation. The flames were already coming out of the house when they heard Brent yelling. Brent’s statement was that he began yelling as soon as he was out of the house,” the District Attorney’s investigator, Wilbanks, noted in his report.

He reveals to Redmond that he has an appointment to see therapist in a few days. Something, that he says is a brand-new concept for him.

“I’ve never needed help with anything because I’m strong… that’s why my family was so great because my kids were the same way,” he boasts.

Moving away from the question of guilt, he darts the conversation into how he and his kids would give money to the homeless on the side of the road and how they went to church.

And then, he reverts to the investigation with a theory.

“There was something… an accelerant, something… that’s what happened,” he says, revealing to her that he goes to the house every day to just “sit there and look.”

“I don’t have anything to hide. I didn’t do anything wrong. I know it,” he offers without provocation. “I’m destroyed in the morning and the night.” Because, he says, that’s when he would see his kids the most. “It’s so hard.”

Redmond tells him that he has two versions of what happened that night.

“I don’t remember what that was…” he says, laughing.

“This is the one I remember better. This is my better memory,” he says, again laughing.

“I don’t know what’s different because I don’t remember.”

“So, you clearly believe what you told me is what happened?” Redmond questions.

“Yes. Clearly.”

Two male investigators, Wilbanks and Ryan Thurmond enter the small interrogation room to pick up where she left off.

Case files reveal new details in fatal Tucker fire.

They ask about his past and how he got here.

He started his career in the restaurant business at 15, when he says, he was a dishwasher.

In his 20s, North Carolina-native revealed that he was in the Navy for two or three years… however, he says that he “got in trouble with pot or something and was discharged.”

He says he cannot remember, but thinks that he was caught selling something.

*****

REPORT: Brent’s criminal history shows that he has been arrested six times, including one Naval arrest, investigators said in their report. His crimes span from 1979 and at least two states outside of Georgia, including North Carolina, Florida, including larceny, drug possession and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

One investigator continues to probe.

“What we have to do is figure out the difference between what you said that night of the fire…”

“I don’t know what I said. I wasn’t in my mind. And that’s the problem, I wasn’t in my mind,” he says.

“You said, when you came downstairs, you saw a fire in the house,” the detective reminds him.

“I’m not sure… I didn’t think I did,” Brent says. “The only thing I remember is stepping outside and feeling the ‘whoosh’ and then George coming over with a shovel and me busting out the back glass. I don’t remember anything after that.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I was not in my mind. I was out of my mind,” he continues.

“Why do you think that you were that far out of your mind?” the investigator pushes.

“Because I couldn’t get back in,” he defends his memory loss. “I was incredibly destroyed because I couldn’t save my family.”

But something is off to the two investigators.

“You remember everything except, there’s fire and smoke in the house… You’re 100 percent confident that there was no smoke or fire in the house?”

“That’s my recollection now. I don’t know why I would’ve said that,” he says with more vigor.

“We don’t see how it’s possible that it happened that way,” the investigator challenges him.

“How could it not happen that way? Are you saying I’m not telling the truth?” he begins to raise his voice.

“I’m saying there’s something missing. We don’t believe it’s possible that you came down the stairs and witnessed no fire,” the investigator tells him.

He reiterates to them that he opened the front door because he heard a loud noise that he thought was coming from outside.

The investigator continues his probe.

“You have a window in that faces the front of the house, is there a reason you didn’t outside from there?”

He says, the kids’ beds were obstructing his view.

Brent begins shuffling in his seat.

“I don’t really like what you all are implying. OK? I don’t like it,” he says to the investigators.

“OK, well we’re not trying to imply anything; we’re trying to get the information that completes the story.”

He insists that he has been cooperative.

“I gave it you. I’ve given you everything I got.”

“You’ve given us two different accounts.”

“I can’t help that. I didn’t do anything wrong,” he says.

“I’m giving you the opportunity to solve this problem,” the investigator counters.

“I have.”

“You’ve given us two different versions.”

“OK, well the one was from the night when I was out of my mind. My family had just been burned to death in a fire,” he says angered.

“I understand that. But what we’re trying to tell you is, looking at the fire scene and looking at everything there, the fire was either roaring already when you came down the stairs—there’s no indication from the scene that an explosion happened.”

Offended by their line of questioning, Brent tells them that if they keep badgering him and insinuating that he’s lying, he is going to want to speak with an attorney. They tell him that he can do that and that he is free to go at any time.

“To figure out what affirmatively happen, we have to make science match…” they explain to him.

“I don’t know… but I do want to go,” he says standing up, now audibly agitated.

They walk out together.

 

Feb. 18, 2016

Thurmond and Wilbanks interview Kathy’s parents and other family members at the family’s Peachtree City, Ga., home.

During that conversation, they learn that Kathy and Brent dated three to four months before getting married on July 19, 2003.

Recently, they say, they gave Kathy and Brent thousands of dollars to help them.

REPORT:
-Cell phone records indicate extensive calls from creditors
-Finance records for the two family cars showed extensive debt collection issues

 

According to her parents, Kathy had experienced sexual abuse as a child and received subsequent psychiatric treatment for emotional issues related to that. She was also medicated as part of that treatment.

Brent told her parents at the funeral home that he wanted to have Kathy and the girls cremated.

According to his sister-in-law, Kathy, who had once been close to the family, had distanced herself over the past few years. But, she says, Kathy had never expressed concern over her marriage. In fact, she tells investigators that Kathy was “obsessed with a positive public image. She would not have wanted anyone to know if there were problems. She knows that they drank heavily.”

She says that after the fire, Brent, who had never called or texted his sister-in-law before, told her about the fire.

In one story, she says, he told her about a popping noise downstairs. In another story, she says, he told her that the family was getting ready for bed. In yet another version, he allegedly told her that the family was asleep at the time of the fire. But, she says, he eventually conceded and told her that he couldn’t remember what happened because he had consumed 10 shots the night of the fire.

 

Feb. 19, 2016

School administrators tell investigators that they had received numerous emails from Kathy at night, with “strange rants” about people at school liking someone else’s Facebook posts more than hers.

Also, they say, Kathy appeared to be intoxicated one afternoon while picking up her daughters, and subsequently the school called DFCS. Later, a lawyer for the Pattersons called the school and threatened a slander lawsuit, they tell investigators.

In a class project about her family, the school indicates that Kayla said her parents fight every night and she feared that they were going to break up.

Teachers tell investigators that Kayla had anxiety and was bullied by other students. She also missed a lot of school prior to Christmas for several illnesses.


Feb. 24, 2016

An acquaintance who attended Tucker United Methodist church with the Pattersons notes to police that at the end of the summer in 2015, Kathy asked her to be the Godmother of her daughters in case anything should happen to her and Brent. Since, she wasn’t particularly close to the family, she perceived it as an odd request.

She tells investigators that Kathy had also confided in her that she had had a miscarriage that summer.

By the end of the summer, Kathy and the kids had been sick and in the hospital. And the family had also lost multiple family dogs in a row within a matter of weeks.


Feb. 25, 2016

The fire scene is examined.

His brother-in-law calls investigators and says that Brent is conveying to his family that he was going to be arrested.


March 4, 2016

A friend through her daughter’s dance camp calls the DA’s office and tells investigators that on the morning of the fire, one of the family’s neighbors and close friends posted to her wall: “Kathy, it’s an emergency. Please call me,” and listed his phone number.

The fact that they were friends, she says, and he listed his phone number “surprised her.”  The post was deleted before investigators could confirm its validity.


April 2016

A search warrant is executed and several bags of evidence are confiscated from the house. The Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office says they were investigating the fire as possible arson.

MORE | Cause of death determined in fatal house fire where dad was sole survivor

The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner reveals that Kathy, Kayla and Madeline’s cause of death was smoke inhalation and is considered an accident.


June 10, 2016

A woman who frequently used Brent’s restaurant for catering, tells investigators that she received a call from Brent at the beginning of June. He told her, she says, that police believe he set the fire.

He allegedly asked her to out to drinks, saying that he couldn’t ask her out before because he had a family.

She says that she declined his invitation.


June 24, 2016

Investigators interview a bartender at Oasis, an adult entertainment bar that Brent frequented.

She says he came in several days following the fire, showing family photos to the dancers, as well as photos of their gravestones, news articles and search warrants.

Brent told her, she says, that he was going to get money for the home and all its contents and that he was going to get money for each person who died in his home.

He told her, she says, that when he is found not responsible for the fire he was going to go on Nancy Grace and Greta Van Susteren and write a book. He told her of his plans to go on a press tour and never having to work again, because he would be making so much money from appearances.

And this “routine” she says was repeated with each dancer. She says when he would share the loss of his family, he showed no emotion and shed no tears.


June 24, 2016

Detectives sit down with and talk to an exotic dancer who reveals that she went on two paid dates with Brent in June—one of which she received $400 and an impromptu visit to his burned house. She’s one of several dancers he goes out with following the fire.

A set-up by her friend at the Pink Pony, she tells two male investigators that she met with Brent for lunch on Friday, June 10 in Brookhaven across the street from the Pink Pony. He consumed three beers, she recalls.

He brought out the speech that he gave at the funeral or viewing.

“He made me read the notes from his daughters’ schools… made me look at pictures to look at the daughters.”

She says she kept trying to change the subject but that he can’t bringing up the fire, even though he tells her that their “date” is to get his mind off what happened.

“He was making jokes about it,” she reveals.

“He said, ‘You know, if you would’ve told me 18 weeks ago that I’d be where I am now, I would’ve laughed at you. And here I am, lucky ol’ bastard, alone, no family, no kids; but, hey, at least I’m about to be rich.’”

She continues that he told her that he met his wife at the Italian Oven and that they had been married 13 or 14 years, and that he had given her everything she ever wanted.

“She never had to work on a day in her life,” she says that he told her.

He told her that his anniversary and daughter’s birthday were coming up and he wanted to do something special for that. She says, he told he wanted to do “‘something to relive the last moments that happened.’” She indicates how odd that seemed to her. That’s when, she says, he tells her that the whole family slept in the same bed.

“And that’s why my daughter’s body melted through the ceiling. It fell through,” she says that he told her.

She says that he tells her that the door was too hot to open and get back inside and shows her photos of his arm and leg burned—but the burns, she tells investigators, were minor.

She recalls the conversation between them about the fire.

“What do you mean it was too hot?” she asked him.

“Well, the fire started…”

“So the fire hadn’t started when you walked outside?” she inquired.

“No, it hadn’t started yet,” he confirmed.

“Well, if it hadn’t started until you were outside to check, how did the fire have that much time to get… I mean, that doesn’t make sense, unless it was an explosion. How is that possible?” she probed him further.

“I don’t know how it’s possible; all I know is that I went outside at the right time. And then I turn around and it was too late,” she tells investigators he said to her.

He tells her that both he and his wife woke up and their daughters did not. He allegedly tells her that he told his wife, “Don’t worry, baby, go back to sleep.”

In fact, the detectives follow up with her on that quote and she was sure that he said that to her.

The night left her feeling uneasy, but she agreed to see him again the following night.

She says that he texted to her to meet for drinks at bar on Saturday, June 11 at 7 p.m., near his townhome.

But she doesn’t know what she’s in for that night.

He takes her to his house— the burned-out, $200,000 house.

“’Whaaaaat are we doing here?’ It's all padlocked up, has a chain fence. He undid the padlock,” she says to the investigators. She tells them that she remembers he was not emotional while at the house—where he told her that he had a gift for her.

Turns out, the gift was a floor full of documents, family photos, search warrants.

She says, it was like he was showing off a trophy to her.

“It was almost like it was empowering him. I really felt like it was turning him on, like he was getting some sick, twisted… like me comforting him, that was turning him on. That was fueling some fire that was in him.”

With the sprawling amount of details and memories he had placed on the floor, she says that she tried to comfort him and put her hand on his. But, she says, he grabbed her to hug her and, she says that she could feel that he was aroused.

“You’re talking about your dead wife and kids… something in your wiring is not right,” she says to the investigators.

She describes the house as black, with soot from top to bottom.

“It’s all melted and black and the walls are down—it’s just looked like something from a horror movie. I was so creeped out. It’s just a creepy feeling to be in a house where three people have passed.”

He gave her a tour, showing her where things were in the house and telling her that the police thought it was an electrical fire, but that they were “wrong. It was really something in the fireplace… that sparked and started it.”

And as they’re standing inside the home he shared with his wife and two daughters, she says, he told her that after he tried to get back inside and couldn’t, he just sat in the yard and watched the house burn.

 

July 5, 2016

Crews tear down the charred home, demolishing family memories and possibly some deeply buried secrets.

July 6, 2016

An insurance special investigations agent contacts Thurmond. She tells him that a few days after the fire, Brent had contacted her to find out when he would receive his payment for his claim. He left numerous messages and when she spoke to him, he asked her when he could expect to be paid the $2 million from his policy.

She says that she explained to him that it was a liability umbrella on the policy and it did not apply because the fire was a loss and not a liability claim. She tells investigators that this information did not make Brent happy, and soon thereafter, he retained a civil attorney.


May 5, 2017

More than a year after the fire, Porter announces that despite their efforts, they do not have enough evidence to charge Brent with arson or murder in the 2016 fire.

“There is no smoking gun; there is no confession; there is no evidence that links [Brent Patterson],” Porter says during a press conference.

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The lone survivor of the Tucker house fire that killed a mom and her two daughters will not be charged.

Despite launching a massive investigation, with thousands of documents and interviews, the
Gwinnett District Attorney was unable to move forward with charges.

There was a disagreement between the experts who investigated the case about what story the evidence tells, Porter said.

The fire, he said, was of human origin but “because of the destruction of the property” they could not determine if the human cause was accidental or intentional. Porter said the nature of the case makes it challenging to prove because “arson cases are difficult.”

Porter told 11Alive that at least one of his experts was convinced the fire was arson and told him he should charge Brent with murder.

But a second expert told him the way Brent described the fire the first time was at least possible, and it could have been an accident.

Furthermore, two experts hired by State Farm have “advised verbally that their investigation showed the electrical, mechanical and natural gas sources have been ruled out as a possible cause of the fire. There is no known possible accidental source for the fire.”

An autopsy from the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death as smoke inhalation and accidental.

While they are closing the investigation, Porter said it could be reopened if more evidence or new witnesses presented themselves.

In a phone interview with 11Alive, Brent said he was glad to hear of the outcome of the investigation.

 

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