WILLARD -- New details have been released in the nearly five-month-old investigation of the fire that left one brother dead and the other a "person of interest" to police.
Willard Police Chief Nate Thompson said his office last week finally received the state medical examiner's report on the June 27 death of Eric Lankford. The 26-year-old died in the 3 a.m. fire at the home in Willard he shared with older brother Jeremy Lankford.
Thompson said the autopsy report does not call the death a homicide, listing the manner of death as undetermined. The cause of death is smoke inhalation and "thermal injury," or burns, he said, "and he was alive at the time the fire started."
The autopsy does confirm the police investigation's theory that the fire was intentionally set, Thompson said.
"We have evidence that shows it was intentionally set, but it doesn't indicate by who," he said.
Thompson wouldn't comment on what that evidence is, because the investigation is ongoing.
Toxicology results also show both Lankfords had been drinking, but at levels below the 0.08 blood-alcohol limit for driving.
Thompson's department has been criticized for not arresting Jeremy Lankford, now 29, during a quarrel with younger brother Eric two hours before the fatal fire. Three officers were summoned to the dispute, but no arrest was made.
"It is not illegal to be intoxicated in the state of Utah," Thompson said.
Intoxication does not become an offense until a subject tries to drive a car, poses a threat to themselves or others, or creates a public disturbance, he explained.
In July, Perry officials issued a news release that included passages in boldface, italics and underlined, blistering the Willard police force's handling of the case and for not arresting Jeremy Lankford before the fire.
A Box Elder County sheriff's sergeant, a Perry police officer and a Willard officer responded to the earlier incident before the fire.
Only the Perry officer argued for an arrest of the older Lankford, according to the Perry department's report, released Monday pursuant to a Government Records Access and Management Act request by the Standard-Examiner.
Thompson said the Perry report actually backs his department's assessment that there were no grounds to arrest anyone in the earlier incident before the fire.
The Willard department is not releasing its report on either incident, and Perry is declining to release its report on the fire -- both departments cite the fact of the ongoing investigation.
The Standard-Examiner is appealing the GRAMA denials.
In July, two members of the Weber County Homicide Task Force, a detective from South Ogden and another from Harrisville, were assisting Willard in the death investigation.
Investigation is still ongoing, Thompson said, pending the outcome of a months-old search warrant. He said the investigation still waits on what the warrant reveals.
He would not elaborate on the specifics, except to note it was served in Utah, and a search warrant can be served for records, a location, or bodily fluids or tissue for chemical testing. "I can't say which."
The Lankfords are from California, and Jeremy Lankford has been staying with family there since the fatal fire.
Once the warrant is dealt with, the findings of the investigation will be forwarded to the Box Elder County Attorney's Office for screening for any criminal charges.
Thompson said he has conferred with prosecutors there on the case.
"They're just waiting for us to get all the information together."
Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238 or tgurrister at @standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at