A man who caught fire while torching an Ascension Parish house died Monday, and his uncle — also burned while taking part in the arson — remains in critical condition, the state fire marshal said.
Larry Morrison Jr., 28, of New Orleans, died at the Baton Rouge General Medical Center burn unit; his uncle, Joel Morrison, 68, of Marrero, is still being treated there, said Deputy Chief Brant Thompson, of the state Fire Marshal’s Office.
The two men are accused of setting fire to a home on Tom Miles Road near La. 941 on Friday and were believed caught in a flash fire, caused when fumes and vapors ignite. No one else was in the home at the time.
The men were driven to a hospital in Gretna before being transferred to Baton Rouge.
Investigators found “a connection between the homeowner and the suspects,” Thompson said. At this point, he said, he could not reveal further information about that connection.
“We believe other individuals were involved in the crime and are attempting to identify them now,” he said.
Thompson said investigators are gathering video surveillance from the area and from the west bank of Jefferson Parish.
Witnesses said two men, one of whom was on fire, were seen running from the area near the home as it burned and left in a light-colored, four-door sedan driven by others, Thompson said.
The fire marshal’s investigation determined the fire was an arson with multiple points of origin in the back of the home, he said.
The two men introduced ignitable liquid into the home and were caught in a flash fire, when the fumes or vapors of the liquid went up in flames as the source of fire was introduced, he said.
“The conditions were right in the home” for a flash fire, which will ignite items in the home, as well as the atmosphere, Thompson said.
State investigators learned Saturday that two men had been transported to the Baton Rouge General Medical Center burn unit after earlier being treated at Ochsner Medical Center in Gretna, Thompson said.
The men told staff at Ochsner they had been injured trying to burn a pile of old tires, he said.
“Individuals that are involved in the crime of arson and are injured as a result will often try to report to a medical facility outside where the arson occurred,” Thompson said.
The Fire Marshal’s Office, however, is notified by medical facilities whenever major burns are treated, he said.
Both suspects have extensive criminal histories.
The man who died, Larry Morrison, was arrested 12 times, including on armed robbery, Thompson said.
Pam Laborde, public information officer with the state Department of Corrections, said Larry Morrison had been released March 30 on good time parole and was being supervised by the Probation and Parole Office in Jefferson Parish. He had a single, current conviction on record at the time he died, for an armed robbery committed in Orleans Parish in 2007, for which he had been sentenced 10 years, before being released on parole supervision.
His uncle, Joel Morrison, had been arrested more than 40 times, on counts including murder, robbery, theft and drug charges, Thompson said.
Joel Morrison’s most recent arrest was in Jefferson Parish in October 2011 on counts of possession of hydrocodone and possession with intent to distribute heroin, Laborde said. Joel Morrison pleaded guilty to both counts and was sentenced to five- and eight-year concurrent sentences.
Joel Morrison was released on good time parole supervision on March 11, 2014, also in Jefferson Parish, Laborde said.
“We are continuing to work closely with (Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley) and his department in this investigation, which is far from being resolved,” state Fire Marshal Butch Browning Jr. said in a news release.
Anyone with information on the arson may call the state fire marshal’s arson tip line at (800) 256-5452 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.