Crime

Suspect in Indiana homicide, arson fire nabbed in Kennewick

KENNEWICK -- A man suspected of setting an Indiana fire that killed an elderly woman is in the Benton County jail after he was arrested for allegedly harassing some women at a Sun Mart in Kennewick.

Police identified Douglas Grant, 29, of South Bend, Ind., by his fingerprints on Tuesday and learned he was wanted on a warrant for a homicide and six counts of attempted homicide stemming from an arson fire he allegedly set July 6.

Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin said Grant was arrested Friday night when a Kennewick police officer was called to Sun Mart in the 5000 block of West Canal Drive for a report of a male harassing some women in the parking lot.

When the officer pulled Grant aside for a talk, Grant allegedly gave him a fake name -- Robert Lee Smith -- and was arrested for false reporting.

After the arrest, the officer reportedly found some loose prescription pills in Grant's pocket and booked him on a 72-hour felony hold under the fake name for suspicion of illegally obtaining prescription drugs.

While in jail, police ran Grant's fingerprints through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System and learned he was wanted in connection with the fire that killed Thula Ullrey, 92, in South Bend.

Capt. Mike Grzegorek, assistant commander of St. Joseph County Metro Homicide in Indiana, said Grant is suspected of starting a fire in a home where he had been staying after being asked to leave.

Grant reportedly had threatened the family who lives in the home the evening of the fire, and had gotten into a fight with a boy in the home the day before. The boy told police that Grant had stabbed him and then ran away before police arrived.

But Grant came back to the home and threatened the family again, Grzegorek said. Later that night, the family awoke to the sound of their gas meter exploding and found their home ablaze. The six members of the family were able to escape, but the fire spread to a neighboring house where Ullrey lay sleeping.

Firefighters battling the blaze were asked to look for Ullrey. They found her with third-degree burns over 30 percent of her body and suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation, Grzegorek said.

Ullrey was rushed to an area hospital, then transferred to a burn unit in Fort Wayne, Ind. She died from the carbon monoxide and smoke inhalation July 11, Grzegorek said.

After the fire, Grant disappeared from South Bend without a trace. Investigators heard he might have gone to Chicago, where he had family, or to Washington, D.C., but no solid leads emerged until he turned up in custody in Kennewick.

When booked into the Benton County jail, Grant gave a Spokane address. He had told Kennewick police he was in town for the hydroplane races, Lattin said.

In addition to the charges on the warrant and the prescription drug possession, Grant faces a possible felony charge as a fugitive from justice. Lattin said it will be up to the court in St. Joseph County to request Grant's extradition back to Indiana.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com

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