Based on the preliminary results of an autopsy performed on the body of a 62-year-old man found in the burned rubble of a mobile home on County Road 3200 in San Augustine County on March 17, his death is now being investigated as a murder.
Tuesday, the San Augustine County Sheriff's Office issued a press release that said the SACSO, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office are working together on the ongoing murder investigation.
"Law enforcement authorities are continuing to develop leads in this case and process evidence recovered at the scene,"said Chief Gary Cunningham of the San Augustine County Sheriff's Office.
The victim was identified as Kavy Neil Sowell, of San Augustine County. He was the sole occupant of the home.
Neighbors say that Sowell was the nicest man they knew and would help anybody.
"Ever since I had a stroke and had to move back up here, he has helped out and watched me and my wife," Don Sanford said. " He also would help me fix my truck."
""He was a jack of all trades," Sue Crosby said. " He helped me fix my water well. My husband has balance problems and will fall. [Neil] would come over no matter what time it was and pick him up for me."
Cunningham said Sowell had no next of kin and that the man's wife died back in January.
According to the press release, a 911 call about a house fire came in at about 9:45 p.m. on March 17. When a SACSO deputy arrived on the scene about five minutes later, the mobile home was fully engulfed in flames.
"I came out of my house, and I could see the flames rising above the trees," Sanford said.
Firefighters from San Augustine, Broaddus, and Powell Town responded to the blaze, but they had difficulty battling the fire because of exploding ammunition inside the residence. Once they got the fire extinguished, Sowell's body was found inside the gutted mobile home.
"I've never seen to the extent expressed to me the volume of ammunition that was exploding at that scene," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office spent three or four days sifting through the rubble at the scene.
Sowell's body was taken to the Southeast Texas Forensic Center in Beaumont, where an autopsy was performed.
"The preliminary results of the autopsy revealed that Mr. Sowell had sustained multiple gunshot wounds that resulted in his death," the press release stated.
Cunningham would not say if the gun shot wounds were fired by the suspect or if they were from the ammunition in the house. According to Sanford, Sowell was a gun collector.
Sanford also said that Sowell had expressed concern about a recent argument he had with a man.
"It doesn't surprise me [ that this happened]," Sanford said. "He had been in some trouble with some people and they had probably been out to do something to him because he said they were up to something."
Sanford said he believed the dispute was over some land belonging to Sowell. Cunningham would not speculate on any motive that might be involved since the investigation is still ongoing.
"We absolutely will not stop until we have the person responsible, or persons responsible for this crime in custody," Cunningham said.
If you can identify the person responsible for this crime or provide information that will assist the investigation, call Crime Stoppers of Lufkin at (936) 639-TIPS or submit a tip at www.LufkinCrimeStoppers.com. All calls and tips are anonymous and Crime Stoppers may pay a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest related to this crime.
Cunningham also said that Lufkin Crime Stoppers is only helping since San Augustine does not have a crime stoppers and that at this time there is no connection between the crime and Lufkin.