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Four arrested in man's fiery death at Utah drug house

Published July 31, 2014 4:00 pm

Autopsy • Early results indicate man died of smoke inhalation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Two men and two women have been arrested on charges stemming from the fiery death of Brian William Swink inside what police characterized as a "known drug house" in Price.

Price police Capt. William Barnes said Thursday that preliminary results from an autopsy by the State Medical Examiner's Office had determined the 32-year-old Helper man had died from asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation during the Tuesday morning blaze at 423 S. 200 West.

Barnes said that one of the home's occupants, James William Pendleton, 39, had called 911 about 11 a.m. Tuesday to report he had beaten up Swink, who was locked in the basement when the house caught fire.

Firefighters, joined by Price police and Carbon County sheriff's deputies, arrived to find the flames had apparently originated in the basement and spread into the main floor, attic and roofing. Pendleton also told officers at the scene that Swink was armed with a handgun.

During the ensuing moments, while firefighters delayed approaching the flames because they believed Swink was armed, Pendletonbroke through a locked door to the basement, but the fire and heavy smoke thwarted rescue efforts, according to Barnes.

Pendleton was taken into custody at the scene, as were another man and two women as they attempted to flee the area, Barnes said.

Once the fire was extinguished, firefighters found Swink's body.

Interviews with the suspects suggested that "there had been drug use going on" when the fire broke out, though it was unclear how intoxicated they were, Barnes said.

He said several different drugs,including heroin and methamphetamine, were likely used in the house.

Late Wednesday, Pendleton was formally arrested and booked into the Carbon Country Jail on suspicion of second-degree felony aggravated kidnapping; third-degree felony counts of aggravated assault, conspiracy and obstructing justice; and a class A misdemeanor count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.

Ashley Ann Platt, 31, and Michael John Dees, 38, were booked on suspicion of second-degree felony counts of aggravated kidnapping, as well as third-degree felony conspiracy counts. Platt also faces a class A misdemeanor count of weapon possession by a restricted person.

Amee Lee Averett, 33, was booked on suspicion of class B misdemeanor filing of a false statement.

All four arrestees were being held without bail and remained behind bars Thursday, jail records showed. All four also had been found guilty of past crimes, according to state court records.

Barnes said additional charges are possible as the investigation continues and the case is reviewed by the Carbon County Attorney's Office.

As for Swink, state court records show he had an extensive criminal history including theft, burglary, robbery, assault and drug offenses going back to 1999.

As of Thursday, investigators had determined what caused the fire, Barnes said, declining to be more specific because he did not want to jeopardize an ongoing investigation. Barnes said the house was deemed a total loss.

— Tribune reporter Harry Stevens contributed to this story.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims