Friends speak out, ask questions after deadly Bienville Parish f - FOX10 News | WALA

Friends speak out, ask questions after deadly Bienville Parish fire

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(Source: Facebook) (Source: Facebook)
(Source: Facebook) (Source: Facebook)
(Source: North Bienville Parish Fire Department) (Source: North Bienville Parish Fire Department)

Friends of a Shreveport woman, who consider themselves family, opened up after a house fire in Bienville Parish claimed the life of 42-year-old Crystal Schmidt over the weekend.

The fire burned the house on Penn Shaffer Rd. completely to the ground. 

People who knew Schmidt have questions about their friend's death, including Schmidt's boss at Barksdale Federal Credit Union Evelyne Epperson.

"How could she not get out? And How did she pass? You know, was she awake, was she overcome by smoke?" ask Epperson.

Schmidt was an indirect underwriter in charge of approving or denying car loans at Barksdale Federal Credit Union. Epperson described her as a "model employee."

"She did not have a family here so we were her family. She spent about 80 percent of her time here," explained Epperson.

The house was owned by Schmidt's boyfriend, 58-year-old James Thomas Counts.

Counts escaped from the second floor of the house, but Schmidt didn't make it out.

The initial reports from the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's office say Schmidt was found on the first floor near the front door and died from smoke inhalation.

"There needs to be more left of the structure itself to give us kind of an indication of where the point of origin is, otherwise we got to go off of what the witnesses say," said North Bienville Parish Fire Department Chief Gary Hathorn.

The witnesses were Counts and a neighbor he asked to call 911 the night of the fire.

His neighbor Joyce Lilly recalled the night, "He was disturbed and he said, 'Oh My god, my girlfriend's in the house."

Since the fire was deadly, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal took over the investigation.

"They had an arson dog out here that night," said Chief Hathorn. "The dog never hit on anything that I'm aware of, as far as accelerant or something like that."

Hathorn said there were no working smoke detectors in the house. Since then, some close to Counts have argued that there were.

"Whether there were or were not, the smoke detectors that were in there were not working. That's as bad as not having one," explained Chief Hathorn.

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

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