8 Feb 08

Investigators are attempting to determine if a fire Thursday is related to a missing-person case.

The fire occurred at an abandoned farmhouse on West Virginia 31, said Chief Kim Marshall of Deerwalk Volunteer Fire Department. The property is owned by Marvin Petty, the father of Judith Petty, who went missing Wednesday evening, according to Parkersburg police.

Investigators do not know if the missing woman was inside the structure at the time of the fire. A search produced no results Thursday, but investigators planned to return today to continue sifting through the debris. No one was living in the house at the time of the blaze.

Firefighters from Deerwalk and Waverly Volunteer Fire Department responded to the property around 9:30 a.m., Marshall said. Crews arriving on scene found the structure was destroyed.

“Obviously, the structure was already burned. It was on the ground. Another adjoining building was also burned,” Marshall said.

The property was inaccessible for the majority of the departments’ vehicles. A crew in a four-wheel-drive brush truck approached the residence, but the vehicle had limited water-carrying capacity, Marshall said.

“It was inaccessible. We could only get up there with a four-wheel-drive brush truck that only had a couple of hundred gallons of water on it,” Marshall said.

The structure was unoccupied and was being used for storage, Marshall said.

“We don’t know if she was out there or not. We’re going back out in the morning if we don’t hear from her tonight. We’ll be back out there tomorrow for some more searching,” said Chief Terry Hefner, Waverly VFD.

Judith Petty, 48, of Parkersburg was last seen around 5 p.m. Wednesday when she left her north Parkersburg home to return books to Parkersburg-Wood County Public Library, said Sgt. J.D. Hart of the Parkersburg Police Department. She was last seen around 36th Street and Emerson Avenue, he said.

The missing woman has brown hair, weighs about 250 pounds and is 5 feet 4 inches tall. She has a history of medical problems but does not have a history of running away or becoming lost, Hart said.

Anyone with information on the missing woman should call the police department at (304) 424-8444.

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