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'I will burn this down.' Murder charges filed against grandson in 79-year-old woman's death in Gary house fire.
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'I will burn this down.' Murder charges filed against grandson in 79-year-old woman's death in Gary house fire.

The grandson of a 79-year-old woman killed in a Gary house fire Thursday morning allegedly admitted to police he started the fire during a heated argument, according to court records.  

Kyle A. Gray, the grandson, was charged Friday in Lake Criminal Court with murder, murder in perpetration of arson, arson resulting in serious bodily injury and arson.

Gray, 25, of Gary, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon on allegations he started the fire that killed Barbara Booth Walker.

Gray allegedly admitted to detectives he lit a gas can on fire during an argument with his grandmother, but claimed her death was an accident, court records state.  

Police were dispatched 3:20 a.m. Thursday to the 3400 block of Johnson Street for a report of a house fire, police records show.

Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady originally said Gray was not initially at the scene, but showed up while firefighters were working. But according to court records, the first officer on the scene found Gray standing outside the home next to a black vehicle.

He told the officer "in a calm voice" he saw black smoke coming from the south side of the residence and his grandmother was in a back bedroom, records state. The officer noted he could not see any fire or smoke in the home. 

Gray gave the officer his house keys, but the officer discovered the door was partially open and hot to the touch. When he pushed on the door, he saw the front room was full of "thick, dark smoke," records state. 

The Gary Fire Department arrived and found Walker lying on her bedroom floor. She was carried out of the home, but showed no signs of life, records state. Firefighters noted a strong odor of an "ignitable fluid" emanating from the woman's body. 

A forensic pathologist later determined the woman died from smoke inhalation.

Gray told one officer at the scene he got into an argument with his grandmother about 9 p.m. and left to clear his mind. He told a different officer he did not arrive home until 1 a.m. and left before the fire started, records state.

An assistant chief with the Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office ruled the fire an arson. He found a trail of ignitable liquid led from Walker's southwest bedroom, through the home's hallway and living room, and toward the front door. 

Officers executed a search warrant on a van parked on the north side of the residence. They found an almost empty one-gallon gasoline container in the vehicle's front passenger area, records state. 

A black shirt that smelled like gasoline was found in Gray's vehicle. 

Gray initially claimed in an interview with detectives he got off work at 8 p.m. and got home about an hour later. 

He said his grandmother confronted him when he arrived about being disrespectful during an earlier conversation, so he left in his vehicle. He said he drove to a Crown Point church, where he played on his phone for a few hours. He said he did not arrive home until 2 a.m. or 2:30 a.m., at which point he noticed black smoke coming from the house. 

Detectives confronted Gray with the case's evidence Thursday afternoon and told him to tell the truth in a written statement, records state. 

He then wrote he awoke at 1 a.m. and argued with his grandmother "like never before," records state. He said his grandmother hit him repeatedly with her cane, so he walked outside and retrieved a gas container from the van. 

"I will burn this down, just leave me alone," he told his grandmother, records state. 

He said he struck several matches near the gas can, and inadvertently set it ablaze, records state. He said he tossed the gas can and fled the home in fear. 

He told detectives he drove away in his vehicle, but returned about 15 minutes later and called 911. 

Gray is being held without bail, court records state. An initial court hearing has not been scheduled. 

Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail

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Lake County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Steve covers Lake County courts and social justice issues for The Times. The UW-Milwaukee graduate joined The Times in 2016 after reporting on criminal justice in New Mexico and Wisconsin.

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