(Editor's note: This story was voted the No. 2 top story of 2012 by the Morning Journal news staff.)
EAST LIVERPOOL - An early-morning fire March 17 that killed a father and his three sons had the community in mourning and then in shock four days later when it was announced the blaze was deliberately set by the father.
County Coroner Dr. William Graham ruled the death of Ulrick Estimot, 37, self-immolation (suicide by fire) and the death of his sons, Trey, 11, Terrell, 7, and Trenton, 5, as homicide by arson.
Angela Latshaw, mother of the two younger boys and Estimot's fiance, returned home to discover the fire roaring through her home, her family inside.
She and a passer-by as well as police officers who arrived first on the scene were unable to get inside due to the intense heat and flames.
Firefighters noticed the odor of an accelerant inside the home as they discovered the four bodies, and an accelerant-detecting dog was brought to the scene by the fire marshal.
When the dog alerted on several areas, the fire department declared it a crime scene and turned it over to police.
According to the joint investigation, both the front and back doors were locked from inside, and the fire began where Estimot's body was found, with a melted plastic gas can found on the landing at the top of the stairs.
Gas was found on Estimot's pants and shoes, at the point of origin in the living room where his and Trenton's bodies were found, and gas was poured in front of bedroom doors upstairs and down the stairs.
The two older boys' bodies were found in an upstairs bedroom.
Through their investigation, city detectives were able to locate a surveillance video at a local gas station showing Estimot purchasing cigars and a lighter at 7:39 p.m. the night of the fire.
Although the video didn't show him purchasing gas, store records showed 2.6 gallons of gasoline purchased by pre-pay at the pumps at the same time. When his truck was searched, the bed was covered, and when the tail gate was opened, a strong odor of gas was detected, according to police.
The day after the fire, tributes began showing up on the doorstep of the Vine Street home - teddy bears, footballs, balloons and notes - dedicated to the three little boys, even as neighbors and family members shook their heads in consternation, puzzling over how a man known as a dedicated father could have taken such action against his children.
Over the intervening months, the balloons deflated, the tributes were removed, and the house on Vine Street stood empty, a grim reminder of several lives taken too soon.
In recent weeks, the house was demolished, but the Estimot boys' memory lives on, and during the annual Christmas parade they were honored with a photo of them carried in the procession as part of the Little Potters football team's entry.