Polk detectives investigating fatal house fire

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 7:44 PM EDT

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is investigating a death Wednesday morning related to a house fire. 

According to the sheriff's office, 78-year-old Edward McLaughlin died in the fire, along with three family dogs. 

  • Polk detectives investigating fatal house fire
  • 6 out 7 people able to escape house fire
  • Seventh person found dead inside home

Officials said a house, located at 7445 Green Road in Lakeland, caught fire around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

Seven people were living in the home--five adults and two children. Four of the adults and the two children were able to escape from the home when they realized there was a fire, officials said. 

Firefighters found McLaughlin in a back bedroom. His wife, Emma, told authorities she woke her husband up and thought he was right behind her when the rest of the family escaped.

"They all got up and ran because of the fire," said Sheriff Grady Judd. "[McLaughlin] said 'Let me get a shirt on, I'll be right there,' and he never came out of the house."

The family told investigators he had the chronic lung disease COPD.

Neighbor Patricia Letchworth said she’s known the family for decades, and worked with Emma at her daycare.

“I feel bad. I’ve known them for a long time," Letchworth said. "They’ve been to weddings and different things. So, they did things with my kids. Their kids did. It’s pretty bad for him to be gone."

Letchworth said a neighbor grabbed a garden hose to try to put out the fire, but it was just too far gone. She told us the family has lived in the home for about 40 years.

“The thing I really felt bad for was there was a little tiny girl there," Letchworth explained. "Their daughter had a baby and she was walking around here. I don’t know where they’re going to go or what they’re going to do."

Authorities said so far they haven’t found anything suspicious about the fire. The sheriff’s office is waiting on the autopsy results to reveal McLaughlin’s exact cause of death.