HUTCH, Ky. (WATE) — The Bell County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday it had detained four people believed to be connected to items stolen from the same property where a fatal fire had claimed the lives of three children and their grandmother earlier this month.
Two were charged for theft, while two others were charged on outstanding warrants, according to the Bell County investigators.
According to BCSD, Devereux Wilder, Dillon Nichols, Ralph Nichols and Retta Howard were detained and interviewed after investigators discovered that a small camper located on the same property as the fatal trailer fire, had been burglarized sometime between the time of the fire and the following day.
Family members had reported multiple items stolen from the camper; including firearms, a generator, a wire welder, carbide lamps and copper wire, the sheriff’s department said.
Investigators saying a family member located on Facebook firearms they believed to belong to the victim and shared photographs/screenshots of what she had found with other family members. They collectively reported the information to the Bell County Sheriff’s Office on Monday January 20, 2020.
Pawnshop sales led investigators to the accused suspects.
Bell County Sheriff’s officials said that on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 Dillon Nichols, along with his father 55-year-old Ralph Nichols, then went East End Pawn Shop in Middlesboro, Ky. and pawned one of the stolen firearms, a .22 caliber Remington rifle, for $60.
Investigators also found that on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, Retta JeanAnn Howard went to the East End Pawn Shop and pawned another stolen firearm, a 9mm pistol, for $50.
On Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, Bell County Sheriff’s investigators went back to Hurst Hollow Road, due to complaints of suspects trespassing on the theft victim’s premises.
Upon arrival, investigators say the same vehicle that the Nichols father and son had been seen driving to the pawnshop was parked in the driveway.
Deputies found Dillon Nichols, Ralph Nichols, a woman identified as his girlfriend, plus Retta Howard and her boyfriend Devereux Dewayne Wilder, and two other individuals on the property.
Dillon and Ralph Nichols, Retta Howard, and Devereux Wilder, who investigators say all had outstanding arrest warrants, were taken into custody and transported to the Bell County Sheriff’s Office for an interview.
The other individuals were free to go.
After the interview Ralph Nichols, investigator say he was lodged in the Bell County Detention Center and charged with burglary – 3rd degree, receiving stolen property (firearm), possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, and theft by deception – under $500.00. He was also served the outstanding warrants.
Dillon Nichols, was charged with burglary – 3rd degree, receiving stolen property (firearm), theft by deception under $500.00, served an outstanding warrant and also lodged in the Bell County Detention Center.
Devereux Wilder was served an outstanding warrant and lodged in the Bell County Detention Center.
Retta Howard was served an outstanding bench warrant, but only cited to court due to a medical condition.
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