An Iowa man suspected of setting a house fire that killed his 12-year-old stepsister and her cousin in May sent text messages about killing a month earlier, court records show.
Patrick Ryan Thompson, 26, of Ames, was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of arson.
He’s suspected of intentionally setting a May 15 fire that killed his 12-year-old stepsister, Melanie Paige Exline, and her 16-year-old cousin, Shakiah Cockerham, at the Guthrie Center house where they lived with their grandmother.
The girls’ uncle, William Long III, 54, suffered severe burns to his upper body in the fire, while the girls’ grandmother, Shirley Exline, 74, suffered minor injuries.
Court records detailing Thompson’s murder charges show that investigators obtained his cellphone records, which revealed text messages about killing, sent about a month before the fatal fire.
In an April 16 text conversation with his mother, Thompson wrote, “Yeah it’s the killing that entices me sounds so good sometimes,” and “Kill all the b—— with their head games,” the records showed.
Thompson’s stepfather, James Hubert Exline Jr., 46, also was arrested Wednesday on two counts of sexual abuse against his daughter, Paige. At a Wednesday press conference announcing his and Thompson’s arrests, Guthrie Center Sheriff Marty Arganbright would not confirm whether the arson and sexual abuse charges are connected.
Before the fire, 19-year-old Noah Exline, of Jefferson, had been charged with seven counts of felony sex abuse against Paige, his sister. Noah Exline is Thompson’s stepbrother and roommate.
On May 14, the day before the fatal fire, Thompson spent the day at his mother’s home with his stepfather and stepbrother, who are both accused of the sexual abuse.
The day after the fire, investigators interviewed Thompson. They later found evidence that contradicted what Thompson told them in that interview about his whereabouts at the time of the fire, according to court records.
Multiple people who originally told law enforcement they were with Thompson at the time of the fire later admitted they were not, and investigators also found surveillance video that contradicted Thompson’s interview, the court records show.
Before Thompson’s arrest, Shirley Exline told The Des Moines Register that she believed the arson was related to an ongoing sexual abuse case involving her family.
She alleged the fire was set to silence Paige from testifying about family abuse in a hearing that was set for later that month.
Investigators said in May they were investigating whether there was a connection between the sex abuse case and the fire. Though the sheriff would not confirm any connection Wednesday, he said, “It’s why we’ve been doing an ongoing investigation with this case.”
At the time of the fire, Shirley Exline was fighting to gain custody of Paige, she told The Register. Shakiah, who also died in the fire, had lived with her grandmother since she was a baby.
Long, the girls’ uncle, is out of the hospital but remains “in constant pain,” Shirley Exline said Wednesday.
James Exline Jr. is on Iowa’s sex offender registry. He was convicted of sex abuse and lascivious acts against two girls in 2009, court records show.
One of the victims in the 2009 conviction was younger than 13.