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5 years later: Mom of 4 girls killed in Flora fire feels 'robbed as a mother'

Posted at 8:42 AM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 08:50:47-05

FLORA — It's November 2021, but for one mother, November 2016 will forever be on her mind.

This weekend marks five years since the fire that killed four sisters — Keyana Davis, 11; Keyara Phillips, 9; Kerrielle McDonald, 7; and Kionnie Welch, 5 — in Flora, one hour north of Indianapolis in Carroll County.

The girls' mother, Gaylin Rose, is asking for help to solve the Nov. 21, 2016, arson fire that killed her daughters as the family plans a memorial service.

"Some days, I feel robbed as a mother, to be honest with you," Rose said. "My motherhood was robbed from me from taking care of my children so I manage it the best way that I can."

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At about 4 a.m. Nov. 21, 2016, firefighters were called to the 100 block of E. Columbia Street where a two-story home had gone up in flames.

Keyana, Keyara, Kerrielle and Kionne were all killed in the fire. Their mother was injured trying to rescue them and was flown to the hospital with serious injuries. She was released several days later.

Two officers were also injured.

Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Drew Yoder, one of the first on the scene, rushed into the home trying to rescue the girls. After multiple failed attempts, he was pulled out of the home by Flora Police Officer Josh Disinger.

Deputy Yoder suffered critical injuries and smoke inhalation and was flown to the hospital where he was hooked to a ventilator for several days. Officer Disinger was treated and released.

At the time, the cause of the fire could not be determined because of the extent of damage to the home. The fire was believed to have started behind a fridge in the kitchen and K-9 units were brought in to search for possible accelerants, but none were found.

Initially, no foul play was suspected, but Indiana State Police re-classified the fire as arson in January 2017, saying it was intentionally set and that accelerants were found in “multiple” locations throughout the structure.

At that time, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security established a reward fund for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Several months passed in early 2017 without any answers. Indiana State Police said in June 2017, after repeated inquiries from the media, that they were questioning “persons of interest” in the investigation but did not have any suspects in the case.

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Less than two weeks later, on June 23, 2017, Dennis Randle, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security Fire Investigator assigned to the Flora fire case resigned after questions arose regarding the specific details of the arson ruling.

That same day, arson investigators amended their findings, saying accelerants were only found in one room of the home — but retained the arson classification.

On Oct. 26, 2017, the NAACP joined the family of Flora fire victims at a press conference to announce they would also be joining the investigation.

“The NAACP is just getting involved but based on information we have, it appears the investigation has been bungled in some kind of way,” Barbara Bolling, member of the NAACP National Board of Directors said that morning. “There are people out there who know and it smells. I know we’re just getting started here, but it smells of a cover-up.”

Indiana State Police held a press conference later that day to address the NAACP’s comments and concerns.

“Even the notion that there would be even the perception of a cover-up in regard to an investigation involving our little girls is not only unsubstantiated but strikes me at the core of who I am and the agency I represent,” ISP Supt. Doug Carter told the media at the time. “I’d give my life to find out who killed those little girls.”

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On Nov. 11, 2017, nearly a year after the deadly fire, Carroll County Prosecutor Robert Ives announced he would be stepping down from his position at the end of the year — leaving one of Carroll County’s biggest cases unsolved. Days later, on Nov. 14, Flora Fire Chief Adam Randle resigned from his position.

In December 2017, Indiana State Police requested a peer review of the investigation from the Indianapolis Fire Department.

The peer review by IFD examined witness reports of people present at the time of the fire, including firefighters, police and witnesses. Members of an IFD Fire Investigation Section also conducted a physical examination of the scene in Flora.

They released their findings on Jan. 31, 2018, confirming that the fire was intentionally set.

A $5,000 reward is still being offered for any information in connection with the deadly incident.

Anyone with information regarding the case should call 1-800-382-4628. Callers may remain anonymous. More information about the victims and the reward is available at this link.

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