The Stagner house at 810 Clear Lake Road in Highlands suffered severe fire damage. The center portion of the roof is missing

HIGHLANDS – A roaring blaze in a house on Clear Lake Road last Friday morning seemed bad enough to firemen and the neighborhood, but it actually was set, to cover up a more horendous scene of a murder of the 72 year old woman occupant of the house, according to authorities.

Caroline “Sue” Stagner, a well known woman who had retired about 4 years ago after a 36 year career with the Highlands Water District, was found by firemen in her bed, stabbed multiple times and covered with blood.

Highlands Fire Department responded to a call about 6:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, with flames shooting from all sides of the one story house. They called for help from other departments, in Crosby, Sheldon, and Channelview. The fire was extinguished in less than an hour, Chief Little said. Fire hydrants on Clear Lake Road were helpful in the fight. Firefighters had discovered the body of Mrs. Stagner upon entering the building, during the fire, and acted to contain the flames away from the bedroom where her body was in bed.

After the fire was under control, Sheriff’s deputies entered the building and determined upon examination that Mrs. Stagner was the victim of a homicide, having been stabbed several times.

On Monday, Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, the coroner, released the results of an autopsy confirming that Mrs. Stagner died of multiple stab wounds, not the fire.

At this time, the Sheriff’s deputies are looking for information from anyone that knows about the case. Investigators can be reached at 713-967-5810 or at Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS. Callers remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward. Now tips can also be sent to the Sheriff’s crime website, iwatchharriscounty.com.

Mrs. Stagner leaves behind three children, and grandchildren. After retirement she kept busy with gardening, cooking, sports on TV, and family events. She was a 1959 graduate of Crosby High.

Authorities investigating the fire include the Harris County Fire Marshal and the HCSO homicide unit. Reports that an accelerant was used to spread the fire did not prove true, after dogs were used to scan the premises, according to authorities.

After Friday’s fire, deputies could be seen for several days interviewing neighbors and family members. Several leads were being pursued, it was said.

The Highlands community has expressed concern about the number of homicides this year, which now number five. Although circumstances in each vary, some residents feel that the Sheriff needs to staff the area more thoroughly, and investigate and prosecute more rigorously than has been demonstrated.