Police: Fatal fire set by suicidal family member — (WHAS 11)

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WHAS 11

06:26 PM EST on Tuesday, February 27, 2007

NORTH VERNON, Ind. — Adrian Hardwick lost his wife, daughter, grandson and mother-in-law in a housefire on November 19, 2006. And though he was estranged from his wife, he is upset that she is accused of homicide in death based on a theory.

“From all the pieces that we can put together, Elena more than likely set the fire from inside,” says Officer Andrew Richmond of North Vernon Police.

State fire marshals had already concluded arson, but why Elena Hardwick?

First, police concluded that whoever set the fire also died in the fire, which meant one of these four did it: Helen Dean, her daughter Elena Hardwick, her daughter Ericka Hardwick or Elena’s 18-month-old grandson Hunter Hardwick.

Again, why Elena? Police say she had attempted suicide last year and that only her toxicology report came back abnormal, with high levels of Prozac and amphetamine.

“The levels she had in her system were from what the doctor described, well above what the therapeutic level would have been,” says Officer Richmond. “About three times higher, which, during the autopsy, is either indicative of an overdose or a suicide attempt.”

Adrian Hardwick tells me by phone that he’s not surprised Elena had drugs in her system – she was being treated for depression. He also says he can see suicide, but adds, “I hate to see everyone paint her as a person who would murder someone… In my heart of hearts, I do not believe that she would intentionally hurt her daughter, grandson or mother.”

North Vernon Police Detective Ivory J. Sandefur concludes, “I believe while taking her own life, Elena Hardwick also unknowingly took the lives of her other family members.”

Adrian Hardwick offers two other possibilities. He says Elena suffered narcolepsy and that in times past she had fallen asleep and dropped a cigarette. And he says there were oil lamps throughout the house.

Nevertheless, police are sticking by their conclusion.

“This is the best scenario that we can come to closure with,” says Officer Richmond. “Obviously the exact details of how everything exactly happened in the house prior to the fire are probably never gonna be known.”

Web story produced by Jay Ditzer.