LAWRENCEBURG — A Kentucky State Police investigator could not say with certainty Wednesday whether arson was the cause of a fire that destroyed the Anderson County home of a man who was indicted for murder this week in the death of his girlfriend.
Kevin Dunn, an investigator for the state police, said an arson dog indicated twice that debris found on the scene could have accelerants present. But Dunn said he could not say for sure that arson was the cause.
The fire gutted the mobile home formerly occupied by Gary Bancroft.
Wednesday's fire came two days after Bancroft, 33, was indicted by an Anderson County grand jury on a charge of murder in the death of his girlfriend, Frances Renee Mobley, 33, reportedly after she swung a knife at him. State police found Mobley's body stuffed inside a trash bag in the mobile home's bathroom on Sept. 4.
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No one was living in the trailer at the time of the fire. Bancroft, who is being held in the Franklin County jail in lieu of a $500,000 bond, declined to comment through a jail spokesman on Wednesday.
Bancroft's public defender, Scott Getsinger, said threats have been made against his client. Told that an investigator can't say for sure whether it was arson, Getsinger said, "I doubt that it burned on its own."
Mobley's aunt, Rena Hardin of Mount Washington, said she and other relatives have no idea who would want to burn Bancroft's trailer.
"We don't know anything about it," Hardin said, adding that relatives have been keeping to themselves in the wake of Mobley's death.
"None of us is doing very well over the violence of this crime," she said.
Mobley's uncle, James Mobley of Bean Blossom, Ind., said "None of the Mobleys know anything about that. We're not going to do anything to interfere with the law."
The fire was reported shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday at the corner of Bards town Road (U.S. 62) and Fairview Road, about 14 miles west of Lawrenceburg.
Ray Hoskins, who lives across the road from the trailer, said a neighbor woke him to tell him the mobile home was on fire.
"He'd already called the fire department. That was a good thing because my phone line burned in two," Hoskins said.
Anderson County Fire Chief Mike Barnes said the trailer was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived.
Barnes said there were no obvious signs of arson, but the fire is suspicious because of the remote location, because of the early hour and because it was a crime scene over the Labor Day weekend.
"It's going to be difficult to dig through this and determine an exact point of origin," Barnes said.
The trailer was searched by Honey, a yellow Labrador retriever, and her handler, Jim Kanavy, of the Scott County Fire Department.
An arson dog is trained to sniff out minute traces of accelerants that might have been used to start a fire. The dog is paired with an officer who has been trained to investigate fire scenes.
Dunn said it could take a crime lab four to six weeks to analyze samples taken from the scene. Dunn said the fire will not hinder the murder investigation.
State police searched the mobile home on Sept. 4 and retrieved a cell phone, bloody washcloths and numerous blood swabs, among many other items seized, according to an inventory filed in court.
Before she died, Mobley had swung a knife at Bancroft during a fight, Bancroft told state police, according to court files.
In an affidavit filed in court by Anderson County Deputy Sheriff Chad Cox, Bancroft told Ronnie Hale, another Bardstown Road resident, "I killed her."
"I sliced her from ear to ear and put her in a trash bag in the bathroom," Bancroft told Hale, according to the affidavit. Bancroft also told Hale that he had tried to dig a hole near the closed Western Elementary School, 10 to 20 feet from U.S. 62. The school is diagonally across the road from Bancroft's trailer.
Bancroft asked Hale to "help him finish digging the hole after dark to get rid of the body," the affidavit says. Bancroft then planned to drive Mobley's car to the Louisville airport and leave it there.
Police later discovered the freshly dug hole. A shovel was standing in the hole, the affidavit says.
In addition to murder, Bancroft was indicted on a charge of tampering with physical evidence. The indictment says Bancroft, thinking that an official proceeding might be brought against him, "destroyed, mutilated, removed, or altered the physical evidence" that would be used against him.