WARNER, Okla. (KTUL) – Volunteer firefighters in Warner cleared the scene at a vacant home after putting out a fire.
Hours later, the person who owns the home finds his stepson dead inside.
Warner is a small town, just 20 minutes south of Muskogee where people like Ernest Bennett knows mostly everyone by name.
“You can’t go anywhere very much without seeing someone you know,” he said.
Living here for more than 30 years, it’s rare to hear about a deadly fire.
“We have very little,” said Bennett. “There’s even not much vandalism.”
Now that’s changed.
Adam Satterfield is Warner’s Police Chief. He said volunteer firefighters got to a home off of Highway 266 near 11th Road as quickly as they could to put out the fire on Jan. 19.
“They extinguished the fire in the back bedroom,” said Satterfield. “There was no other damage to the rest of the property.”
Since the home is used as a resale shop, firefighters were told no one lives there and the home was vacant.
“At that time Warner Fire had no reason to believe anyone was in the home,” said Satterfield. “That’s when everybody cleared the scene and a couple hours later that’s when the residence’s owner came back and discovered the body.”
That homeowner later stopped by the house telling Tulsa's Channel 8 that he was the victim’s stepfather. Although he didn’t want to be on camera, he showed us around inside.
He said his stepson, Steven Laymon sometimes stayed the night here to watch the house.
The back bedroom is where the fire started. The homeowner said his insurance company said the fire might have started from a cigarette.
He said he didn’t find Laymon in the back bedroom but in another room in the house.
“We think he woke up in time to get out of here and probably scorched his lungs,” he said.
His stepfather said after the fire he was looking through the house and noticed some clothes had fallen off a rack in a different room. He didn't know why until he saw Laymon in the room.
“So I stepped over there and his head was over against that wall over there in that corner,” he said.
Satterfield said any loss like this is devastating to their community.
“This is a small town,” he said. “It’s not every day that one we have a structure fire and two we discover a body inside the fire. It’s a little bit of shock to the community as well as the police department and the fire department.”
Right now investigators are waiting to hear back from the medical examiner’s office.
The fire department's initial assessment is that the fire possibly started by an electric space heater. The state fire marshal is still investigating the cause.
The homeowner said he isn’t sure what he is going to do with the house.