Manner of death in home fire still undetermined

Sep 8, 2017 By Kelli Ameling and Katie Roenigk, Staff Writers

One year after William Acord, 78, of Lander, was found dead inside of his burning home, the manner of his death remains undetermined.

Officials say the ruling will remain in place unless new evidence comes to light.

Initial call

Emergency responders found Acord dead inside his Market Street home at about 5:30 a.m. Sept. 7, 2016, after a woman reported seeing smoke coming from the residence across the alley from her property.

Later, investigators from the state fire marshal's office said the blaze was set intentionally.

Reports state there was a cigarette lighter in Acord's right hand, and petroleum products were present on his shoes and the bottom of his pants. Officials determined flammable liquid had been poured on the floor and lit with the introduction of an external ignition source.

The home was filled with smoke when firefighters arrived at the scene, and toxicology tests showed Acord was exposed to accelerants as well as the effects of the fire, but Coroner Mark Stratmoen said the levels of exposure was not high enough to indicate the death was due to smoke inhalation.

Instead, Stratmoen said Acord died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

A .38-caliber handgun was located several feet away from Acord's body, according to reports.


On Tuesday, chief deputy coroner Erin Ivie said the manner of Acord's death - whether it was an accident, a homicide or a suicide - still is undetermined.

"(There has been) no new evidence that has changed our opinion or the facts of the case," she said. "It will remain undetermined unless there is new information brought forward."

When Stratmoen released his findings last year, he said he would reopen the case if new information arose.

Still open

Officials from the Lander Police Department consider Acord's death "still under investigation," according to LPD Det. Sgt. Randy Lutterman, who said the current status of the case is being ruled undetermined.

"No new evidence and no new additional leads (have developed)," Lutterman said Tuesday.

He noted that the LPD's caseload has "filled up" as other investigations have arisen throughout the past year.

"This (case) is not at the forefront," Lutterman said.

If new information becomes available, he added, follow up will continue.

"We don't like a case to be undetermined, but someday, maybe, it can be ruled as closed," Lutterman said.

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