KSLA Investigates: Did 1-year delay in ruling woman's death a homicide let a killer go free?

KSLA News 12 long-time employee remembered by friends, family after untimely death
Gladys Greathouse, her homicide remains unsolved.
Gladys Greathouse, her homicide remains unsolved.

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - When fire broke out in Gladys Greathouse's Mooretown home early the morning of Sept. 15, 2016, taking the 58-year-old woman's life, her family and friends were devastated by the loss.

From the outside, the fire appeared accidental.

But when investigators said little about the cause of the fatal blaze, some folks close to Greathouse became suspicious.

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"Nobody was really telling us what was going on," said Semmie Buffin, a veteran photojournalist at KSLA who was a friend and co-worker of Greathouse at the television station.

After first responders, Buffin was one of the first people on the scene.

Greathouse had failed to show up for work that morning.

And when her address came over the fire dispatch scanner monitored at the station, some worried friends sent Buffin to check whether Greathouse was all right.

“I asked earlier a police officer that I knew line danced with her,” Buffin said. “I asked 'Is that Gladys' house?' And she looked at me with a look that didn't look good.”

For months, the Caddo coroner's office failed to issue a death certificate, and the Shreveport Fire Department remained tight-lipped about the case, according to Greathouse's daughter.

Then as the one-year anniversary of the fire approached, the coroner dropped a bombshell: Greathouse was the victim of a homicide.

While the exact manner of her death remained unknown, the coroner was certain it was not flames nor smoke that killed Greathouse.

The coroner determined that she already was dead when the fire started and that the fire appeared to be set to cover up her death.

In fact, witnesses and first responders said the fire created a lot of smoke.

But a report recently released by the Fire Department indicates the flames did not spread far outside Greathouse's bedroom.

It was in that room near the back door of the house where firefighters first discovered Greathouse deceased.

Her face, head, upper torso and arms had been badly burned, according to the Fire Department's incident report.

On the day of the fire, Shreveport Assistant Fire Chief Fred Sanders said department investigators were working to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

Recently, Sanders told KSLA the Fire Department followed all National Fire Protection Associations standards in this case, collecting evidence the day of the fire, submitting it to Northwest Louisiana Crime Lab four days later then, when the result came back in three, the coroner's office was notified.

Because the case now is being investigated as a homicide, the coroner's office declined to answer why it took so long to rule Greathouse's death a homicide.

The Shreveport Police Department now is investigating the possibility that she was murdered.

But getting the case a year after her death means precious time and some potential crime scene evidence is gone.

Greathouse's friends and family are frustrated, realizing that whatever caused the delay in ruling the case a homicide means there's little hope her killer will ever be brought to justice.

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