Crime

Judge seals search warrant related to fatal Rolesville fire

Members of the Rolesville Police Department and Rolesville Fire Department gather near the home at 6205 Roles Saddle Drive in Rolesville on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. A fire Friday morning in the home killed a woman and a 3-year-old child. Another 3-year-old child was taken to the burn center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Police are investigating the fire as “suspicious.”
Members of the Rolesville Police Department and Rolesville Fire Department gather near the home at 6205 Roles Saddle Drive in Rolesville on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. A fire Friday morning in the home killed a woman and a 3-year-old child. Another 3-year-old child was taken to the burn center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Police are investigating the fire as “suspicious.” snagem@newsobserver.com

A Wake County Superior Court judge has sealed a search warrant related to a fatal fire in Rolesville that police called “suspicious.”

Rolesville police applied for a search warrant and carried out a search of the home of Kristy Bryan, 39, who died in the Dec. 11 fire inside the two-story house in the Heritage neighborhood. Bryan’s 3-year-old son also died in the fire and her other son was injured.

The search warrant also included a vehicle and human remains.

Judge Donald W. Stephens signed an order Dec. 17 that said “the interest of justice will best be served by temporarily maintaining the secrecy of said warrant.”

The warrant will be sealed for 90 days but investigators can request to keep it private for longer.

In the order, Stephens and Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard J. Cummings said that publicly disclosing the reason for the search warrant and anything recovered during the searches would get in the way of the investigation and “may release information that could adversely affect persons who are not charged with committing a crime.”

Rolesville police are leading the investigation into the fire and have released few details, including why they consider it suspicious.

Police Chief Bobby W. Langston II has said Bryan’s husband, Derek Bryan, is cooperating with the investigation.

Authorities have not said where Derek Bryan was at the time of the fire. The couple’s 6-year-old daughter was at school.

The district attorney recommended sealing the search warrant, said Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles.

“We want to be careful and make sure we do everything right,” Eagles said.

Court documents are sometimes sealed in high-profile crimes to keep details about an investigation private.

In 2009, the North Carolina Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court’s decision to seal warrants related to a Cary murder case.

Nancy Cooper of Cary was found strangled to death in 2008 and the investigation quickly focused on her husband, Brad Cooper. Investigators executed search warrants for Brad Cooper’s home, car, office and computers.

The warrants were sealed for 30 days, and then longer, despite objections from The News & Observer and Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owns WRAL.

The appeals court ruled it’s acceptable to seal search warrants if it is essential to “preserve higher values,” reasons for sealing the documents have been stated on the record and the judge considers less-restrictive options, among other criteria.

Rolesville will release more information about the fire as it becomes available, Eagles said. Police likely won’t receive results from lab tests until after Christmas, he said.

Mechelle Hankerson: 919-829-4802, @mechelleh

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