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
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
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.
Hamilton police are calling the deaths of Carla and Allan Rutherford homicides.
A tin found by the demolition crew in the bedroom of Carla and Alan Rutherford's home held coins.