Six years later: Dona Ana County investigators clear homeowners in massive home explosion
POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 2:38pm
UPDATED: Monday, June 2, 2014 - 10:36am
Doña Ana County, NM (KTSM) — The nearly six year investigation into an explosion that leveled a Dona Ana County home in the early morning hours of October 23, 2008 is complete, and Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office has officially closed the case without filing any criminal charges against the homeowner.
The explosion completely leveled a home in the 4800 block of Deadwood Camp Court in the Talavera community east of Las Cruces. An ongoing conflict between law enforcement and the owners of the property has now been settled.
The homeowners, Paul and Kimberlee Hering, who were not home at the time of the explosion were initially investigated due to the unusual circumstances surrounding the blast. According to court documents, the Herings said they left their home on Deadwood Camp Court at approximately 4 p.m. October 22, 2008 to go to Ruidoso.
At the time of the explosion, the Herings were in the process of selling their 4,413 square-foot home and said they had been doing work on the home, installing speakers and new tile. The Herings claimed they believed to have a buyer for the home, and as a result, had moved most of their funiture out of the home.
The Herings filed an intent to sue to Dona Ana County Sheriff's Department in February of 2009, after they claimed that the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Department and Fire Marshal's office purposefully witheld the explosion findings after the Hering's refused participation in a polygraph test.
In the final findings, released Thursday, the Dona Ana County investigators determined that a propane tank in the home had last been filled in September, and the shut-off valve had been reopened at that time, after being closed while the couple was on vacation in Wyoming. Inspections to the propane tank and gas system throughout the house were current, and no discrepancies were reported.
The New Mexico State gas inspector assigned to the case, Clay Bailey, reported that a flexible gas line connector behind a clothes dryer in the home was found to be disconnected, allowing gas to enter to home after the service valve to the home was turned on from the propane tank.
“The escaping gas then found a competent ignition source, causing the ensuing explosion and fire,” Bailey said.
Neighbors in the area reported the massive blast at 2:30 a.m. on October 23, 2008. Thirteen houses within a half-mile radius of the property were damaged by the explosion, some seriously.
The decision to close the case was made jointly with the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Doña Ana County Fire Marshal. The conclusion comes after what a lead investigator said was “insufficient evidence to support any criminal activity.”
The source of the ignition was never determined.