Four family members died early Sunday morning in a four-alarm fire at a home in the 500 block of Vineland School Road near the De Soto city limits.
Two men who were unable to escape the second story because stairs had been damaged by fire jumped from a second-story window. The two had extensive burns and were transported to area hospitals, authorities reported.
Neither fire district officials nor Sheriff’s Office officials would identify the victims, saying the fire was still under investigation, but the four people who died were Joe Detter, 76, and his wife, Fran Detter, 74, and their daughter, Sherri Detter, 37, and granddaughter, Kari Detter, 18, according to family members.
All four lived at the home.
The men who were injured in the fire were Jeremiah Washburn, Kari’s boyfriend, who had been released from the hospital as of Monday, and Kevin Groneck, Sherri’s boyfriend, who was still hospitalized on Monday, said Kari’s sister, Kami Detter, 19, of De Soto, and their cousin, Kelsey Detter, 27, of Herculaneum.
The Detters remembered
The city of Hillsboro posted on its Facebook page that Joe Detter worked for the city as a building inspector.
“The city’s collective hearts are broken,” the post said. “Joe has been with the city of Hillsboro for just under five years, having formerly served as building inspector for Franklin County. In his life he was a police officer, a restaurateur, and above all, a servant to his community. Joe had leadership roles in countless community organizations, including the Lion’s Club and the Joachim Masonic Lodge in Hillsboro. The Detters’ legacy will be one of service to their community.”
Kelsey, the daughter of James Detter – one of Joe and Fran’s seven children – said she always looked up to her grandfather.
“When I was a kid, I thought my grandpa was the mayor of De Soto because of how much he did for the community,” she said.
Fran was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, both Kelsey and Kami said.
“She held this whole family together,” Kami said. “She supported every single one of us.”
“She was the center of our universe,” Kelsey added. “On holidays when we’d come together, we had a table that stretched from the front door to the other side of the house, and it was full of food. She loved to cook.”
“She never let Grandpa come home without a meal ready for him,” Kami said.
Both Kelsey and Kami said their grandmother passed on her love of shopping to them.
“Grandma taught me how to bargain shop,” Kelsey said. “We’d go straight to the bargain rack where you can buy more for the money.
“We went thrift shopping all the time,” Kami added. “That’s what we did together. We’d shop and go to lunch,” Kami added.
Sherri Detter worked 13 years for the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office as an election clerk, County Clerk Ken Waller said.
“Sherri was the one who kept us all loose,” Waller said. “She had a great sense of humor. Her smile lit up the room. She was a very hard worker. In fact, on the day she passed, she came into the office and was doing other people’s work. That was just the kind of person she was. She will be sorely missed.”
Both Kelsey and Kami said they, too, appreciated Sherri’s fun-loving nature.
“Sherri laughed all the time, even when she wasn’t supposed to,” Kelsey said. “She was really silly.”
Kami said both Sherri and Kari were “free spirits.”
Kari was also beautiful, her sister said.
“She was so funny. She had the most contagious laugh,” Kami said. “She loved to do nails and go on walks with her dog, Bailey (who died in the fire). She loved to bake.”
Community rallies around family
Both Kami and Kelsey said the community has shown them a lot of love and support since their terrible loss.
“Our family cannot be more grateful. So many people have reached out to us,” Kelsey said.
“It (the support) means everything,” Kami said. “They (her family members who died) cared about so many people, and its’ good to see so many people cared about them.”
“It’s incredible to have so much support from everyone, everywhere,” Kelsey added.
A GoFundMe page called Supporting the Detter Family has been set up to raise funds to help cover funeral expenses.
Kelsey also said local businesses have collections underway to help the family.
Kami’s mother, Kimberly Detter, one of Joe and Fran’s other children who lost not just her parents but also her daughter, Kari, and sister, Sherri, asked for prayers on her Facebook page and said she appreciated that someone had put up balloons and a sign near her parents’ home that said, “We’re praying for the Detters.”
Capt. Stephen Orr of the Rock Community Fire Protection District, who was acting as information officer for the call, said 15 fire district and departments from around Jefferson and Washington counties responded to the call for the fire at the Detters’ home.
Occupants of the home called 911 at 2:08 a.m., and the first crews on the scene “met with heavy fire conditions and immediately called for additional alarms,” Orr said in a written statement.
Since stairs to the second floor had been damaged by the fire, crews had to use ground ladders to access the second story, the report said.
“Interior search crews were able to locate four deceased occupants,” according to the report.
The fire was under control by 5 a.m., but crews remained on the scene to “continue with extensive overhaul operations,” the report said.
Orr said there is no indication the cause of the fire was suspicious, but the Jefferson County Fire Investigation Team and the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the fire to determine the cause.
“The American Red Cross and the Jefferson County Fire Chaplains group are currently working with the families of the victims,” the report said.