Kevin Clayton’s Death in Friday’s
West Flagler Fire Is Ruled a Suicide
FlaglerLive | December 1, 2015
Last Updated: Tuesday, 5:22 p.m.
The life lost in the Nov. 28 fire on Kentucky Avenue in western Flagler County was ruled an apparent suicide following an autopsy conducted today (Dec. 1) by the medical examiner in St. Johns County, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said in a release late this afternoon. The autopsy also confirmed the identity of Kevin Lee Clayton, the 41-year-old father of three last seen by two of his children, seemingly asleep, with a rifle on his lap in his living room. Clayton died of a gunshot wound, the sheriff’s office said.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating how the fire was started, the sheriff’s office said. No foul play in the death is suspected at this time.
The previous story is below.
House Fire Claims a Life On Kentucky Avenue in West Flagler: Suicide Suspected
Nov. 28–A fire that broke out around 8:30 Saturday evening (Nov. 28) at 40 Kentucky Avenue in western Flagler County’s St. Johns Park area claimed one life and consumed the house. A firefighter was slightly injured.
The fire was under control but still burning in a few back areas of the house at 10 p.m. Saturday when, during a secondary search of the house, firefighters discovered the body of a male. The man, according to a Flagler County Sheriff’s report, was found “with a rifle on his lap,” and his death was attributed “possibly from self-inflicted gunshot wound,” suggesting that he may have also set the fire.
“We did confirm that there was a fatality,” Flagler County Fire Rescue Capt. Richard Bennett, who was in command on Kentucky Avenue, said at the scene. The body was found in the back of the house.
Joe King, Flagler’s chief fire marshal, was at the scene and had contacted the state fire marshal, who was to join King tonight for the investigation, as is protocol when a fire includes a fatality. It was too early Saturday to determine how the fire had started. “Nothing yet because I haven’t even had a chance to walk the whole structure yet,” King said.
The house was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, Bennett said. Two of the three children who live at the house took refuge at a neighbor’s house. The 1,700-square foot house belongs to Amy Clayton, according to property appraiser records. Clayton and the third child (all three children are boys younger than teens) were not at the house at the time of the fire. But Clayton’s husband, Kevin, was.
Sunday afternoon the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office all but identified the victim as Kevin Clayton. The sheriff’s office released the following statement: “The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a neighbor at approximately 8:44 p.m. last evening stating a home located at 40 Kentucky Avenue in Bunnell was on fire. According to the caller, two young children came to their home and said their house was on fire and they could not wake up their father who was still in the home. The neighbor responded to the home, but due to the strength of the fire and smoke, was not able to make entry into the home.”
A more detailed sheriff’s incident report released Monday presents a slightly different version of events. The two children–7 and 4 years old–told their neighbor that their house was on fire and their father was still inside. Dean Lewis, the neighbor–and a member of the Florida Highway Patrol–tried to gain entry into the house but was not successful. Some details of what the two boys saw and told Lewis are redacted from the report, but they told said they saw their father “asleep in the chair with a gun” and ran to the neighbor’s house, not waking up their father because “if they wake up dad he gets mad,” the report quotes the boys as saying.
Amy and Kevin Clayton, the sheriff’s report states, had been separated and going through a divorce. “Kevin had requested that the children spend the night with him, which Amy agreed to,” the report states. The report also notes that the body, “believed to be Kevin Clayton, was found in what was left of the front living room.”
An autopsy is to be conducted on Tuesday.
Flagler County Fire Rescue, the Palm Coast Fire Department and the Bunnell Fire Department, along with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the Palm Coast Fire Police responded to the scene. Firefighters were expected to be at the scene through the night, in mop-up mode. Mike Dolce, the Flagler County Fire Rescue firefighter-paramedic who sustained the injury, was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler.