Adult child of ar­son mur­der pair now a sus­pect

As de­mo­li­tion crews de­stroyed the torched home of Carla and Alan Rutherford this week, they found eerie, heart­break­ing ob­jects

The Hamilton Spectator - - Front Page - SU­SAN CLAIR­MONT

AN

ADULT CHILD of a Dun­das cou­ple killed when their house was torched is be­ing treated as a sus­pect in their mur­ders.

For the first time, Hamil­ton po­lice homi­cide de­tec­tives are pub­licly say­ing that one of Carla and Alan Rutherford’s four chil­dren is the fo­cus of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

They are also say­ing the ar­son was in­tended to kill the re­tired, pop­u­lar cou­ple and that a hit man may have been asked to set the blaze.

“We be­lieve the fire was in­ten­tion­ally set,” says Staff Sgt. Steve Berez­iuk. “And it was done with the in­ten­tion of killing them.

“Right now, we are fo­cus­ing on one in­di­vid­ual and that per­son is aware,” says Berez­iuk. “And they have been co-op­er­a­tive.”

Po­lice are ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that one of the chil­dren con­tracted the ar­son out.

A se­cu­rity cam­era in the neigh­bour­hood may have caught im­ages of the ar­son­ist, po­lice have said.

The Ruther­fords had “no ap­par­ent en­e­mies” be­yond per­haps “that in­ner cir­cle,” the de­tec­tive says.

As for mo­tive, Berez­iuk is con­sid­er­ing var­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing money and a “per­sonal ven­detta.”

Carla has two grown sons from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage. The Green­ing Court home is where they were raised.

Alan had two adult daugh­ters from a prior mar­riage. The cou­ple mar­ried 11 years ago af­ter meet­ing as co-work­ers at a Hamil­ton Health Sci­ences lab.

On July 9, Carla, 65, and Alan, 64, were asleep in the mas­ter bed­room at the back of their modest ranch-style home when sud­denly the room burst into in­tense, fast-mov­ing flames at about 3:30 a.m.

De­spite burns to most of his body, Alan es­caped the house to pound on the front door of his near­est neigh­bour. He was try­ing to get help for Carla, who never made it out of the house alive.

Alan col­lapsed on the neigh­bour’s doorstep and died soon af­ter.

The Ruther­fords’ two choco­late labradors sur­vived the blaze.

The blaze de­stroyed the bed­room, leav­ing noth­ing of the cou­ple’s bed be­yond a me­tal frame.

A tin in the bed­room was burned through and some of the coins inside it were melted to­gether — an in­di­ca­tion of how in­tense the in­ferno was that burned a hole through the roof and floor.

A “false floor” had to be in­stalled for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to ex­am­ine the scene.

Berez­iuk won’t com­ment on how the fire was set. The Of­fice of the Fire Mar­shal is ex­pected to file its re­port by the end of the month.

This week, as dis­traught neigh­bours watched, a de­mo­li­tion crew took down the re­mains of the house. Work­ers say they found the house eerie be­cause some parts were pre­served as they had been when the Ruther­fords went to bed that fi­nal night: Dishes re­mained on the kitchen counter and shoes were lined up by the front door.

Most heart­break­ing were the framed fam­ily pho­to­graphs still hang­ing on the walls.

In the days im­me­di­ately af­ter the mur­ders, po­lice went into the crime scene to re­trieve photo albums for the fam­ily to dis­play at the funeral.

Berez­iuk says the four chil­dren — in­clud­ing the one who is the fo­cus of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion — were given an op­por­tu­nity to go through the house af­ter the foren­sic unit was fin­ished with it, to “sal­vage keep­sakes and me­mo­ri­als.”

He says among items they took were model air­planes made by Alan and quilts crafted by Carla.

At one point dur­ing the wreck­ing process, a me­tal lock box was found in the rub­ble.

Crew mem­bers say they don’t know what part of the house it had been stored in, but that inside were pa­pers re­lated to the Ruther­fords’ di­vorces, their mar­riage, life in­sur­ance and their will.

A mound of me­tal sal­vaged from the site will be sorted and sold for scrap.

In the twisted pile, which smells strongly of smoke, one can make out the “8” ad­dress num­ber from the front of the house, a Singer sewing ma­chine, an iron­ing board, a red tool box full of tools.

Green­ing Court is a small, tight-knit com­mu­nity.

Many neigh­bours have known Carla and her sons for decades.

Alan’s snow­blower, un­dam­aged by the fire, was given to a neigh­bour to con­tinue his tra­di­tion of clear­ing the driveways of ev­ery­one on the court.

When the walls started com­ing down, neigh­bours gath­ered to watch, drink wine and weep.

It was an in­ti­mate wake for friends.

Watch­ing a house come down is of­ten hard for peo­ple, one of the work­ers says.

“This was a house that pro­tected them from the wind storms and the rain.”

Right now, we are fo­cus­ing on one in­di­vid­ual and that per­son is aware, And they have been co-op­er­a­tive.”

STAFF SGT. STEVE BEREZ­IUK

CATHIE COWARD THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

A de­mo­li­tion com­pany re­moves the re­mains of Carla and Alan Rutherford's Dun­das home af­ter a blaze de­stroyed it in July. Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the dou­ble homi­cide of the well-loved cou­ple.

JOHN RENNISON THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Hamil­ton po­lice are call­ing the deaths of Carla and Al­lan Rutherford homi­cides.

CATHIE COWARD THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

A tin found by the de­mo­li­tion crew in the bed­room of Carla and Alan Rutherford's home held coins.

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