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Three die in suspicious fire in White Creek; 'person of interest' caught

2011-07-13T18:45:00Z 2011-07-21T10:05:59Z Three die in suspicious fire in White Creek; 'person of interest' caughtDON LEHMAN -- Glens Falls Post-Star
July 13, 2011 6:45 pm  • 

WHITE CREEK -- Three people died in a suspicious early morning house fire in White Creek on Wednesday, and a man police had been seeking for questioning in the fire was caught Wednesday night in New Hampshire, police said.

Matthew A. Slocum, whom police had been seeking throughout Wednesday, surrendered to officers who had surrounded his uncle's home in rural western New Hampshire at about 10 p.m., according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office. His girlfriend and son were also found unharmed, police said.

It was unclear late Wednesday if Slocum had been charged. Sheriff's investigators and New York State Police were in Gilsum, N.H., for the end of the search.

A manhunt for Slocum ensued after three people were found dead inside the burned home he shared with his mother, her husband and Slocum's stepbrother.

The victims were identified as a husband and wife, and the husband's young adult son, officials said.

Police would not say how they died, and would not comment on reports from neighbors that investigators had asked them whether they heard gunshots before the fire was spotted.

Police were withholding the names of the victims until autopsies were performed later Wednesday or early Thursday, but said they were believed to be residents of the home.

White Creek Town Supervisor Bob Shay said, however, that the victims included Dan Harrington, the town's deputy highway superintendent; and his wife, Lisa Slocum Harrington. Dan Harrington's young adult son, Josh Harrington, was identified by relatives as the third victim.

Shay said he met with highway workers on Wednesday to tell them of the news and discuss the department's operations. Both Harrington and his wife served on the town Recreation Commission, Shay said.

"They were good people. Dan was a real good employee," Shay said. "We all feel horrible. It's just so sad."

Police had sought Slocum, 23, after he could not be located following the fire. A car belonging to one of the victims was missing and police believed Slocum fled the area early Wednesday, before the fire was spotted.

Slocum is a felon who served a prison sentence for grand larceny between 2006 and 2010 and who acquaintances said has a history of mental illness, authorities said.

Police said Slocum, his girlfriend, Loretta Colegrove, and their 4-month-old son, Raymond, fled the area driving a black Ford Mustang with New York license plate DED1769. The car had a white horse emblem in its back window.

Slocum was said to possibly be armed with guns that were unaccounted for at the fire scene, but it was unknown at press time if any guns were recovered in New Hampshire late Wednesday.

Slocum was described as a white male about 6 feet tall and about 200 pounds, with swastika tattoos on his arms. He was last seen wearing a black T-shirt with a skull and crossbones on it.

Police would not identify Slocum as a suspect on Wednesday night but called him a "person of interest."

"They (occupants of the vehicle) may be able to give some clues about this fire," Washington County Sheriff Roger Leclaire said of the occupants of the Mustang. "At this point we're not saying that (whether Slocum is a suspect), but we want to talk to the occupants of that vehicle about this fire."

Authorities said the three visited Colegrove's mother's home in Adams, Mass., at about 5 a.m. Wednesday, but left a short time later and had not been seen since.

Police were investigating a possible sighting of the vehicle in a wooded area of southwest New Hampshire late Wednesday afternoon. Police also had a possible sighting of the vehicle in Connecticut earlier Wednesday, which turned out to be unfounded, authorities said.

Police in New Hampshire surrounded a home in Gilmus, N.H., late Wednesday, near where the Mustang was found.

The home was that of an uncle of Slocum's. Colegrove and the baby came out of the house before 10 p.m., and Slocum eventually surrendered to police after a standoff of about four hours, officials said.

Colegrove's stepfather, James Sicotte of Adams, Mass., said Wednesday afternoon that police had asked them not to discuss the visit.

"All I can say is that we'd like to have Loretta and the baby returned safely," he said.

The couple had been together about a year, he said.

Washington County Undersheriff Matthew Mabb said police issued an Amber Alert later Wednesday in New York and Massachusetts to notify motorists and others to be on the lookout for the baby.

An Amber Alert is a procedure for rapidly publicizing the disappearance of a child.

The cause of the fire was labeled suspicious, and the State Police Major Crimes Unit and forensic technicians were dispatched to the fire scene, officials said.

Leclaire would not discuss the fire's cause or comment on the police questions to neighbors about gunshots.

The fire, which Leclaire said was "fully involved" upon firefighters' arrival, leveled about two-thirds of the house, which is hidden in the woods at 118 Turnpike Road in the hamlet of Eagle Bridge.

The blaze was reported by a next-door neighbor at 4:09 a.m. Police believe it began hours earlier though, and were trying to determine the time of death for the victims.

Neither Harrington nor his wife went to work on Tuesday, and officials were looking into whether that absence was related to the deaths.

Police said they believed five or six people were living in the house at the time of the fire, including the Harringtons and Slocum.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office, State Police and state Bureau of Fire are investigating. Firefighters from White Creek, Cambridge, Buskirk, North Hoosick and Johnsonville respond to the fire.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. sha2garfield
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    sha2garfield - July 14, 2011 12:28 pm
    doesn't say he was an arsonist just wanted for questioning. They wanted to find him not the baby
  2. Resident of GF
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    Resident of GF - July 13, 2011 9:54 pm
    I pray that they find him soon and that the woman and her child are safe and sound. How scary.
  3. Rieux
    Report Abuse
    Rieux - July 13, 2011 9:01 pm
    shagarfield, Smoke another one.

    I just hope that he lets those two go before he does anything stupid.
  4. Jaded0ne
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    Jaded0ne - July 13, 2011 6:09 pm
    I agree with Seriously 1 it is deff not a misuse, it is possible that he killed his whole family, they need to find that baby.
  5. Seriously 1
    Report Abuse
    Seriously 1 - July 13, 2011 4:32 pm
    It is not a misuse of the Amber Alert to locate a child that is at the hands of a mentally unstable arsonist. We have no way of knowing if the mother of the child went willingly. I think police are doing well keeping the mum on it. Prayers to this family and the legacy left for the child. Be at peace.
  6. sha2garfield
    Report Abuse
    sha2garfield - July 13, 2011 3:31 pm
    sounds like they are miss using the amber alert system to find a possible arsonist


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