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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Murry trial reveals search for three victims as house fire raged

Triple-homicide defendant Roy Murry enters the courtroom under heavy guard, Nov. 16, 2016, at the Spokane County Courthouse in Spokane, Wash. for the first day of testimony. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

As firefighters scrambled through the smoke-filled chaos of a burning Colbert home, one discovered a firefighter’s helmet.

Worried it had fallen off another firefighter, he rushed it outside for a closer look.

At the same time, another firefighter crawled across the floor until his hand caught the unmistakable feel of a lifeless body.

Firefighter Joel Chavez had to use “extreme force” to pry the woman’s feet loose where the heat fused flesh to carpet inside the back bedroom of 20 E. Chattaroy Road.

With a barn burning behind the raging house fire, the firefighters used a chain saw to cut through a wall in the home to retrieve the woman’s body.

She was naked with a strip of cloth wrapped around her head and stuffed in her mouth. There were punctures to her chest and slash wounds on her arms and hands.

That discovery instantly escalated the working fire to a murder investigation.

Meanwhile, one of the firefighters shined a light on the charred firefighter’s helmet. It belonged to the Spokane Fire Department. The name read “Canfield.”

He was one of their own.

Paramedic Randy Bean of Spokane County Fire District 4 went back to the dead woman, got on his cellphone and looked up the Facebook page for Terrence “Terry” Canfield. Bean immediately confirmed with an online photograph that he was standing over the body of his buddy’s wife.

“We were friends and co-workers,” Bean said of Terry Canfield. “We ran into scenes together. We taught together.”

Those first chaotic moments were recounted to jurors in the triple-murder trial of Roy H. Murry.

Prosecutors allege the 31-year-old Murry shot and killed the Canfields and John Constable on May 26, 2015, and then burned their remains to cover the crime.

Jack Driscoll, chief deputy criminal prosecutor, cycled through dozens of crime-scene photographs as jurors heard the testimony from firefighters who thought they were responding to an illegal burn. But they arrived just after 2 a.m. only to realize they were facing two buildings fully engulfed in flames.

Next week, prosecutors will call fire investigators to testify how they spent 10 days using metal screens to sift through the rubble in search of evidence to try to solve how the killings and fire took place.

The firefighters testified that after they found Lisa Canfield’s body, they learned that Terry Canfield, 59, and Lisa’s 23-year-old son, John Constable, should have been in the home as well.

The victims were the mother, stepfather and brother of Murry’s estranged wife, Amanda Murry, who was staying in the home but worked four hours late that night. She arrived to find firefighters struggling to save the home while avoiding a live power line that had come down, restricting access to the backyard.

While sheriff’s investigators raced to the scene after the discovery of Lisa Canfield’s body, the search for Terry Canfield and Constable began. Fire crews searched another outbuilding, several cars and an Airstream camper, to no avail.

Then some three hours after the initial call, a firefighter extinguishing the last of the barn fire saw something odd in the rubble. The sun was beginning to rise as he retrieved Division Chief Howard Johnson to look.

“It took me at least 30 seconds or a minute looking at it,” Johnson said. “It was so badly burned it was difficult to tell.”

But Johnson could just make out a human form. It was the remains of Canfield, who spent 28 years fighting fires.

“He was just a part of the debris field,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Thornburg testified. “Most of his lower arms and legs were gone.”

Meanwhile, sheriff’s detectives arrived. They received marching orders for crime scene preservation and the search for evidence. A search warrant was obtained at 8:50 a.m. to allow investigators to begin the work that would last nearly two weeks.

A fire investigator and a forensic specialist first went into the home at 10:05 a.m. to ensure it was structurally sound, Detective Andy Buell testified.

“During the initial walk-through, they discovered another body in the kitchen,” Buell said.

That body was Constable, who was finally located eight hours after the first fire call.

The trial resumes Monday.