By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
Already in jail on an attempted murder charge involving a police officer, a teenager is now being accused of starting the fire that killed three children in New Albany on Jan. 4.
Cody Cashion, 18, New Albany, faces three murder charges and one count of arson resulting in bodily harm. He’s accused of firing a flare into the Ealy Street home and starting the blaze over what investigators and Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson labeled as a property dispute.
Specific details about that dispute weren’t unveiled during a Tuesday news conference where officials announced the charges, as Henderson said some information will be withheld from the public until the investigation is complete.
He confirmed there are other suspects, including one juvenile.
While it’s not believed that Cashion was aware there were people, especially children, inside the house when the flare was fired, Henderson said he will face three felony murder charges because he knowingly committed the act that caused the blaze.
The person who Cashion was allegedly retaliating against wasn’t present at the time the flare was fired, according to Henderson, who declined to identify who that person is.
“We want to finish this case and have it fully prepared so we can move forward on it,” he said.
Trinity Hughes, 2, Tyrese Hughes, 4, and Tai’zah Hughes, 6, died in the fire. The children didn’t live at the home but were staying there with their mother, Theresa Hughes, who was reported to be outside the house when the fire started. She was not injured during the blaze, but her daughter, Taty’ana, 5, received burn wounds and was transported to an Indianapolis hospital for care.
Family members attended Tuesday’s press conference but declined to speak.
The triple murder and arson case has been filed in Floyd Superior Court No. 1. An initial hearing wasn’t set Tuesday.
According to New Albany Police Chief Sherri Knight, information was revealed about the fire during an investigation after Cashion was arrested Jan. 8 by the Clarksville Police Department after a vehicle he was in allegedly struck CPD officer Jason Tackett’s cruiser following a traffic stop. Knight said NAPD detectives spoke with several witnesses who stated Cashion fired a flare into the Ealy Street home.
New Albany Fire Department officials had initially ruled that a combustible material from an unknown source was near a space heater in the bedroom where the children were sleeping. Knight said after learning of the new information, police officers discussed the findings with fire officials.
“Based upon those conversations, the fire department indicated that the firing of a flare into the home would be consistent with their initial determinations,” she said.
For the Clarksville wreck, Cashion was charged Monday in Clark County with class A felony attempted murder; resisting law enforcement, criminal recklessness — defendant armed with a deadly weapon, and auto theft, all class D felonies. He was also charged with class A misdemeanor battery to law enforcement officer resulting in no injury.
At about 5 a.m., Tackett was in the act of pulling over a GMC Yukon occupied by Cashion and a 16-year-old boy from New Albany when the collision occurred. The Yukon had refused to stop for an officer along Greentree Boulevard. The Yukon turned into a break in the roadway’s median and struck Tackett’s vehicle. The collision spun the patrol car around and rolled the Yukon, which came to a stop on its side.
Cashion and the juvenile fled from the vehicle on foot, but were apprehended nearly 50 yards from the wreckage.
Tackett received treatment from University of Louisville Hospital and has since been released. The day of the collision, CPD Chief Mark Palmer said neither teen admitted to driving the Yukon at the time of the incident.
Investigators declined to link the juvenile who was arrested in that car crash with the juvenile who may face charges related to the Ealy Street fire.
Investigators met with Henderson on Monday afternoon to discuss the case, and a probable-cause affidavit against Cashion, who remained in Clark County Jail as of Tuesday afternoon, was filed.
The investigation was assisted by the Jeffersonville Fire Department, Indiana Fire Marshal’s Office, NAPD and NAFD.
“We would also like to acknowledge the tremendous amount of assistance we received from the Clarksville Police Department, specifically Detective Nate Walls,” Knight said.
It’s unknown whether Cashion would have been implicated in the murders without the Clarksville arrest, Henderson said.
Investigators did interview several witnesses, though Henderson hinted those witnesses didn’t come forward on their own.
“The officers found them; they didn’t find the officers,” Henderson said.
The triple murder case and the attempted murder case against Cashion can be held simultaneously, he added.
Court documents show that Cashion also had a warrant for his arrest issued Dec. 23 for a Class D felony theft charge. Henderson said that charge is unrelated to the triple murder case.
— Staff reporter Gary Popp contributed to this report.