Date: January 28, 2004 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr.
Media Contact:


Carrie Rodgers, (863) 534-6217 OR (863) 819-1856, Pager

PCSO Investigating House Fire Fatality

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is conducting a death investigation today after the house at 3710 Rudolph Street in south Lakeland caught fire and one man perished inside.

Deputy Sheriff Joseph "Shane" Robbins was traveling southbound on US Hwy 98 around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 28, 2004, when he saw black smoke emanating from the residential area of Rudolph Street. D/S Robbins responded to the scene and saw two residents of the house, Tonya Combee, DOB 11/12/69, and her boyfriend Allen Bates, DOB 2/25/71, running around outside saying that Tonia's uncle was still inside the burning house. D/S Robbins immediately kicked in the front door but was unable to step farther than a few feet inside, as the heat and smoke were too much. D/S Robbins continued to try to gain entry into the home but the fire had completely overtaken the structure at that point.

D/S Robbins was able to ensure both Tonia and Allen were safe and uninjured, meanwhile calling for fire and rescue units to respond. Lakeland Electric also quickly responded to the scene to turn off electricity, as power lines had begun to fall in the street. Unfortunately, Clayburn McNutt, DOB 10/23/41, who was bedridden, remained trapped inside his front bedroom while the house was completely destroyed by the fire.

The State Fire Marshall will investigate the cause of the fire, and PCSO Homicide detectives are investigating the death of Clayburn McNutt.

Distribution: Undersheriff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

A text only version of this release is also available.

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