Police find evidence of murder in Lee County fire

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BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - What was a mobile home on Main Street, in Beattyville, is now peeled back and exposed along with all of the contents inside.

"Martha loved her stuff. She was a hoarder, but that was her business," said Earlene Johnson.

Martha Hollar had collectibles all over her home and the two store fronts beside her on Main Street, but those are now memories of a friend that Johnson just lost.

"She was like a sister to me," she described of her friend that she'd meet for breakfast three times a week.

On Friday night, a fire burned through Hollar's mobile home and the 79-year-old woman was found dead inside.

"My eyelids have been sore from crying for her," said Johnson, whose tears come with questions: like what happened Friday night after she last saw her friend?

"She sat right on the end of my couch, the last time that I saw her, and got up and walked out the door and said she was going home to sew," recalled Johnson, now regretting she didn't say more to her friend.

On Saturday the case took a serious turn.

"Based on the information and the evidence that was gathered at the autopsy, the case went from a death investigation to a murder investigation," explained Trooper Robert Purdy of the Kentucky State Police.

"I didn't know anyone that didn't like Martha," reacted Johnson.

However, this is just the latest question into what happened in her friend's life. Johnson said just a short time ago Hollar's home, not this one but another one, was broken into.

"It makes me wonder, yes," she said, "since she was murdered and the house was broken into it does seem that it could be connected."

The KSP arson investigator said he's now returned to the home three times to gather evidence, and they'll continue to gather more as they sort through the ash looking for any answer. Regardless of what they learn, Johnson knows it won't change what happened to her friend.

"It seems like a dream. A bad one."

Police say they do know the cause of death, but are withholding it at this time in the investigation. Investigators ask anyone with information to call the Richmond post at 859-623-2404.

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