HUDSON — Two women found dead in a house fire Monday morning died from "homicidal violence," according to Pasco authorities, who believe the fire was set to cover up the crime.
Pasco sheriff's officials on Tuesday would not say how Jessica Keith and Amber Lynn Jordan, both 24, were killed or how the fire was started. Investigators became suspicious when they saw trauma on the bodies and learned how quickly the blaze spread through the home.
Officials said they had no suspects, though detectives were looking into persons of interest and tracking leads.
One of the victims, court records show, had previous encounters with violence.
Keith was listed as a witness in the 2011 murder of her boyfriend, Kamar Allen. Authorities say the man charged with Allen's murder, James Barron, tried last year to orchestrate the murder of a witness in that case.
Barron's murder trial is set to begin Monday.
If Pasco detectives were exploring whether Barron was involved in the fiery homicides Monday as a way to eliminate a witness, they weren't saying.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Chris Nocco said the home, 14235 Pine St., was known for drug activity, though he declined to go into specifics. He referred to Keith and Jordan as "high probability victims," people who put themselves in harm's way by associating with drug dealers. Keith was arrested twice in 2012 on cocaine and marijuana possession charges.
Based on the crowd Keith and Jordan ran with, Nocco said, "we have a pretty good idea who our suspects may be. We want our net wide open."
In 2011, Keith was dating Allen, who previously told Pasco deputies he was a member of the Bloods street gang. He also had a history of drug charges.
Allen was a known associate of Barron, according to deputies. Barron suspected Allen of stealing money from his mother. On Aug. 21, 2011, Barron invited Allen to his home and confronted him. The two later left the house. Barron told Allen they were "going to go find some women," a witness later told deputies.
In a field between Anclote Boulevard and Blossom Lake Drive in Holiday, investigators say, Barron shot Allen and went home. Allen's body was found in a nearby ditch, four blocks from Barron's home, with a .40-caliber bullet in his head.
Barron also is charged in another murder — the Dec. 9, 2011, death of Cedric Saunders.
About a week after that killing, Barron was arrested on multiple cocaine-related charges. While in custody, deputies secured a search warrant for Barron's home and found blood-spattered keys that matched the Kia Rio in which Saunders' body was found.
While Barron was in jail, deputies also charged him with Allen's murder.
In October, three months before his cases were set for trial, detectives say, Barron decided to clean house. He had seen the evidence against him in both murder charges, including names of the witnesses who would testify against him. Reports say he penned a letter from his jail cell to destroy the evidence. In this case, a person.
Barron sent the letter to his mother, Michelle Lee Miller, and it was intercepted by detectives. An expert at the Sheriff's Office sifted through the gang slang to interpret a request. One witness had worn a wire to record talks with Barron to build the state's case against him. Barron, reports state, wanted the witness "peter-rolled" — meaning murdered. The letter indicated there would be a reward.
Sheriff's officials said Miller forwarded the letter to Sumter Correctional Institution. Sheriff's officials didn't release the name of "the person who they were requesting to commit the murder," but did indicate that the person holds clout with members of the Bloods gang.
The Sumter prisoner wrote back to Barron, again through his mother, detectives said. The letter indicated that the Bloods would kill the witness "as soon as possible," officials said.
Deputies later arrested Miller on a charge of solicitation to commit murder. She is in jail awaiting trial.
Barron also was charged with murder solicitation.
"Every piece of evidence in a homicide is important. Every witness is equally important. So the fact that somebody would reach out and try to harm him, it would absolutely be harmful to the case," Pasco sheriff's Detective Bill Lindsey said at the time.
Though court records list Keith as a witness in Barron's murder trial, they do not indicate that she was deposed before she was killed.
Pasco sheriff's Capt. Mel Eakley said not to draw too much into the connection between Keith and Barron.
"There is absolutely nothing that draws together the nexus of his homicide trial and her death," he said.
Authorities are offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information leading to an arrest.
Alex Orlando can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.