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2 charged after items stolen from fatal fire scene in Bell County - 2 more charged on warrants

From The Bell County Sheriff's Department -

On Tuesday, January 7, 2020 The Bell County Sheriff's Department and several other emergency service personnel reponded to a house fire on Hurst Hollow road in the Hutch community which lead to the discovery of three children and their grandmother that had died in the blaze.


Following this tragic incident, an investigation by Deputy Edward Dray revealed that a small camper, located on the same property, had been burglarized sometime between the time of the fire and Wednesday, January 8, 2020. Family members reported that multiple items were stolen from the camper including firearms, a generator, a wire welder, carbide lamps, and copper wire.


A family member located on Facebook, firearms she believed to belong to the victim and shared photographs/screen shots of what she had found with other family members. They collectively reported the information to the Bell County Sheriff's Office on Monday January 20, 2020.


Deputy Dray's investigation revealed that a neighbor of the victims, 20 year old Dillon Jerel Nichols, had attempted to sell two firearms - a .22 caliber Remington rifle and a 9mm Hi-Point pistol - on Facebook on Wednesday January 8, 2020, but was unsuccessful.


Deputy Dray states that on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 Dillon, along with his father 55 year old Ralph Nichols, then went East End Pawn Shop in Middlesboro, and pawned the stolen rifle for $60.00. Deputy Dray further states his investigation found that on Saturday January 18, 2020, Retta JeanAnn Howard of Middlesboro, went to the East End Pawn Shop and pawned the stolen 9mm pistol for $50.00.


On Wednesday, January 22, 2020, Deputy Dray, Deputy Max Graves, and Chief Deputy Doug Jordan, went back to Hurst Hollow Road, due to complaints of suspects trespassing on the victim's premises. Upon arrival, the same vehicle that the father and son had been seen driving to the pawn shop was parked in the driveway. The deputies found Dillon Nichols, Ralph Nichols and a woman identified as his girlfriend, Retta Howard and her boyfriend Devereux Dewayne Wilder, and two other individuals on the property. Dillon and Ralph Nichols, Retta Howard, and Devereux Wilder all had outstanding arrest warrants, were taken into custody and transported to the Bell County Sheriff's Office for an interview. The other individuals were free to go.


After the interview Ralph Nichols was lodged in the Bell County Detention Center charged with burglary - 3rd degree, receiving stolen property (firearm), possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, and theft by deception - under $500.00. He was also served the outstanding warrants.


Dillon Nichols, was charged with burglary - 3rd degree, receiving stolen property (firearm), theft by deception under $500.00, served an outstanding warrant and lodged in the Bell County Detention Center.


Devereux Wilder was served an outstanding warrant and lodged in the Bell County Detention Center.


Retta Howard was served an outstanding bench warrant, but only cited to court due to a medical condition.


Also assisting with the investigation was K-9 Deputy Adam Southern, Chaplain Allen Sanders, Court Security Joseph Kinkade, and Dispatcher Dusty Harris.

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