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Arson is called unlikely in Mo. fire that killed 10

Investigators expect to rule out arson as the cause of a fire that killed 10 people at a group home for the elderly and mentally ill, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Sgt. Jason Clark of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said he did not "foresee that something through the night will lead us to believe that this is an arson investigation."

Authorities had previously described Monday's fire as suspicious but did not eliminate the possibility of an accident.

Clark said authorities do not have any suspects or persons of interest in the blaze at Anderson Guest House, but declined to answer other questions about investigators' findings.

Officials have revealed little about what may have sparked the flames, which originated in an area that included a living room and some bedrooms. They scheduled a news conference for today.

Coroner B.J. Goodwin said most of the victims were asleep when the fire broke out, and said they were found in their pajamas and were not wearing shoes. All of them died of smoke inhalation, he said.

Police said 33 residents and two employees were there when the fire started. The blaze injured about two dozen people and stunned this town of 1,800 people in Missouri's Ozarks.

As the investigation continued, questions emerged about the home's owner, who had been convicted in 2003 in a Medicare fraud case. The conviction raised the issue of whether he was legally allowed to operate the place.

Robert Joseph Dupont, 62, was found guilty for his part in a scheme to bilk the federal program and was sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison.

Missouri law prohibits a felon convicted of a crime involving a health care facility from being an "operator" or "principal" of a long-term care facility, but Dupont's exact role at the home was unclear.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which licensed the group home, did not immediately return a call for comment.

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