The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

May 1, 2014

Autopsy IDs fatal fire victim

Smoking in bed ruled to be cause

By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor

Thursday, May 1, 2014 — An autopsy confirms the identity of a man killed earlier this month in a house fire and the cause of the blaze.

Charlie Edward Shepherd, 75, died in the early morning blaze April 11 at 25806 Dunlap Road, according to Stanly County Fire Marshal Michael Roark. The preliminary autopsy confirmed fire investigators’ theory that Shepherd had been smoking a cigarette in bed when the fire started.

Firefighters sifting through the charred remains of the fire discovered Shepherd’s body in the kitchen area.

“Our best hypothesis is that he awoke at some point during the fire with the bed on fire,” Roark said.

“He attempted to make an escape, but the kitchen was as far as he could get due to the smoke and heat conditions.”

Roark also suspects smoke inhalation will be the cause of death, but an official ruling will depend on the medical examiner’s report, which could take weeks to complete.

Shepherd lived alone in the house off N.C. Highway 24-27 at N.C. Highway 73.

An autopsy report also confirmed that Henry Kohlage was the man to die in a Mt, Pleasant house fire Feb. 28. A pastor had already identified Kohlage as the fatal victim.

Kohlage was pronounced dead at the scene. He was the only one of four residents that lived in the home not to escape.

Other family members suffered burns and other smoke-related injuries.

A cause of the fire remains undetermined, but still under investigation, Roark said.

The blaze reportedly originated on the front porch.

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email