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Woman’s death in burned Helena-West Helena duplex ruled homicide

HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. — After a 61-year-old woman was found dead in a badly burned duplex Monday morning, Helena-West Helena Police are investigating the case as a homicide.

Firefighters found Rosemary White’s home on the 100 block of Anderson Street engulfed in flames Monday around 3:30 a.m.

Bobby Harris said he heard what sounded like an explosion and then raced into the adjoining home to check on the family that stayed there.

“I didn’t know if anybody was in there asleep or not. I kicked the door open, ran up in there,” Harris said.

He was relieved to find no one in the house, but said he didn’t check on White’s home because he didn’t know anyone lived there.

Investigators say they found White's body burned in the living room, but said the medical examiner found no signs of smoke inhalation. Instead, they noticed blunt force trauma to the side of her head and concluded she died before the fire started.

“I can look at it and tell, and I’m not a fireman, never been a fireman, and I can tell just looking at that was arson. Somebody started that fire,” said White’s brother Curtis Wilborn.

Police said they have several persons of interest.

Wilborn said he was told investigators found his sister’s back door unlocked which makes him think it might have possibly been someone she knew.

“Don’t know why would somebody do that ‘cause she was nice and she wouldn’t harm a fly. She wouldn’t harm a fly,” Wilborn said.

White leaves behind two children.

Police say they’re now working with the state fire marshal’s office. Wilborn said he is offering a $2,000 reward for information.

Helena-West Helena Mayor Kevin Smith says it is the city's fifth homicide this year.

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