State probe into Lower Keys fire that killed three moves slowly

This is what was left of the house the morning after the fire.
This is what was left of the house the morning after the fire.

It's been nearly a year since a house burned on Ramrod Key, killing two children and their mother.

Since that time, state fire investigators have wrapped their on-site work and a new house is already sitting on the lot; there's little evidence of the tragedy that occurred. But 11 months later, no cause of the fire has been made public by the state Fire Marshal's Office.

Investigator Wally Romero said Tuesday he was awaiting word from supervisors. In January, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said no criminal charges would be filed stemming from the blaze.

The new nearly completed pre-fab house at Anguila Lane and West Indies Drive where the Ferrer family lived is the same design as the one that burned: A raised home, longer than it is wide with one entryway. On Monday, a few workers were on site, building a new staircase to the front door.

No lawsuits have been filed over the fire but the Ferrer family has indicated it will file one, according to a complaint filed in Monroe County last year that deems the fire electrical in nature.

"The future wrongful death claims stem from an electrical short which caused a pre-manufactured home to catch fire," reads the only court filing related to the fire.

The Ferrer family wants a judge to order the homeowners next door to 27452 Anguila Lane to open their doors a second time so their legal team may measure the force needed to open the windows.

"That neighboring house is identical to the Ferrer house with the same design, same manufacturer, same production date and same environment," according to the Ferrer's complaint filed last Nov. 6 by Miami attorney Thomas Scolaro.

But the complaint appears stuck in limbo awaiting the state fire marshal's ruling.

"We're all just in the waiting game right now," said Darren Horan, a Key West attorney familiar with the case. "I have no clue. I don't know what the holdup is on the state's side."

Horan represents the owners of the house destroyed by the fatal fire and isn't involved in any litigation -- yet. But the lawyer is keeping tabs on the legal claim before Judge Timothy Koenig.

The Ferrer family blames the windows for trapping Robin Ferrer, 46, son Roman, 7, and daughter Hazel, 5, the night of the June 21, 2015, fire.

"The windows were extremely difficult to open and required great force to do so," reads the complaint filed by attorneys for James Ferrer, the father of the two children killed in the blaze, and Courtney Shores and Jacob Shores, the surviving children of Robin Ferrer.

With the home Ferrer home destroyed, the surviving family only has the neighboring Russells to turn to for a source of measuring pressure force from the exact same type of windows, their attorneys say.

During a time when James Ferrer lived at the house, the complaint reads, his ex-wife Robin "would need James and all his strength to open them."

John and Jennifer Russell of Orlando, who own the next-door house, don't want to get involved with the investigation at all and the claim -- not a lawsuit but a bill of discovery -- remains in limbo at the Monroe County courthouse.

The Ferrer family's lawyers had access to the Russells' house Sept. 22, when another neighbor who watches the home for the Orlando couple let in investigators. When a second inspection was requested, the Russells asked for a court order first.

"It's quite intrusive," Horan said. "Do you want anyone viewing your house?"