Officials confirm ID of body from Homer farmhouse fire

Officials confirm ID of body from Homer farmhouse fire

HOMER — More than a month since a fire destroyed a Homer farm house, officials have confirmed that remains found there are those of the homeowner.

According to Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson, the body found at the rural Homer residence was positively identified through DNA as Jeffery L. Ward, 60, the resident of the house, which was completely leveled to its foundation by a Jan. 25 blaze.

In the week after the fire, it took three searches of the scene to find Mr. Ward's body buried below the debris that had piled up in the basement of the single-story house at 7886 N 200 E Road in Vermilion County, southeast of Homer.

The fire was reported at 10:30 p.m. by a neighbor. The house was engulfed in flames when the Homer fire department arrived to fight the blaze in low temperatures and 35 mph wind gusts that created white-out conditions. About 60 firefighters from seven departments responded.

Based on evidence and information from relatives, fire officials believed that Mr. Ward, a truck driver who lived alone, was in his house when the fire started, but the initial search of the site with a cadaver dog resulted in only bone fragments. Those were turned over to the coroner's office and determined to be fragments of animal bones. That prompted two more searches of the site. Heavy equipment was used during the last search on Jan. 30, which led to the discovery of human remains buried below the debris.

Johnson said final autopsy results on Mr. Ward's body are still pending.

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