More clues uncovered in investigation of 1970s fire deaths

Jackson County authorities have more pieces in place of a more than 50 year old puzzle.

Lt Adam Nicholson has been investigating the fire at a makeshift cabin near Brownstown that happened in December 1971. Three teens were believed to be camping there when a fatal fire broke out the night of December 18th — 17-year-old Stanley R. Robison, 19-year-old Jerry Autry and 16-year-old Michael W. Sewell. The bodies were badly burned in the fire and Robison and Autry’s remains were primarily identified by their class rings found in the cabin. Sewell was reported missing that day and never seen again.

The bodies were exhumed from Fairview Cemetery in Brownstown last June and they were taken by anthropologists to the University of Indianapolis to be analyzed. Dr. Krista Latham, a professor of biology and anthropology, investigated whether the remains could have been those of more than two people.

Nicholson says that the investigation definitively revealed that the remains were actually of three people, based on multiple copies of the same bones. Further, Latham determined that there was no apparent cause of trauma outside of the results of the fire.

Surviving family members provided DNA and a test of a bone fragment sent to the Indiana State Police Lab came back this week that positively identified one of the bones as Robison’s. The other bones were too badly damaged to yield results.

Sheriff Rick Meyer said that investigators will continue the investigation with the hopes that new techniques will someday allow for extracting more DNA to be tested.

If you have any information on the case, you can call Nicholson at 812-358-2141.