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Neighbor saw fire burning in pit where bones found

  • Associated Press
  • November 4, 2013 - 1:15 PM

TOWN OF PORTER, Wis. — Stacy Wagner noticed the fire burning in her neighbor's yard in southern Wisconsin about a week ago. It burned around the clock, but the first inkling she had that anything was wrong was Friday night, when deputies turned up. On Sunday, the local sheriff announced human bone fragments had been found in the pit.

Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden told The Janesville Gazette that the bone fragments were found as authorities investigated the disappearance of Aprina Paul, 18, of Fitchburg. She was last seen Oct. 27.

One of Wagner's neighbors — a man Spoden described as a person of interest — has been arrested on a probation hold but not charged with additional crimes.

Wagner said the fire that started Oct. 28 stayed about the size of a campfire. It burned continuously, without even smoldering.

"It was going when we went to bed, it was going when we got up," Wagner said.

Spoden said investigators are hoping to get enough DNA from the bones to identify the body but damage from the fire was making their work difficult.

"We're nowhere near making a determination on if this was a natural death, an accidental death or a homicide," he said.

Property owner John Crull said the man who was arrested moved into the house Oct. 16 with his fiancee and an infant. Crull said the man's stepfather had rented the house for years and recommended his stepson, who also had a glowing review from his employer.

"This guy absolutely fooled me," Crull said.

Paul's mother, Alice Larrue, told the Wisconsin State Journal that Rock County officials told her the man who lived in the home where the bones were found had taken out a Craigslist ad for "partying" and her daughter had responded. Larrue said she didn't know the man or know whether her daughter would have gone to his home voluntarily.

"This just sounds so out of character. I just can't believe it," she said.

Larrue described her daughter as "a very bright, beautiful, smart girl, with a whole bright future ahead of her."

Paul graduated from high school earlier this year and had been working with children at a Madison School & Community Recreation's after-school program.

© 2014 Star Tribune