Investigators increase reward to $15,000 for info on 5-year-old girl's death in fire

Aleigha Hayes

More than three years after the death of a little girl, investigators are asking for help finding answers.

Five-year-old Aleigha Hayes died after a 2016 fire in her family's Vinton County home.

But investigators say evidence- including cocaine in her system- raise serious questions.

A little girl's bicycle, scorched and surrounded by ash- it's the image Vinton County Prosecutor Trecia Kimes-Brown can't shake.

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"It haunts me," she said.

The bike was once ridden by Aleigha Hayes.

Fire destroyed the Londonderry home of Aleigha and her family on May 9, 2016.

Inside the home, were Aleigha, her two siblings, and their parents.

Aleigha and her father both suffered burns. She died in the hospital five weeks later.

Children Services found cause to remove Aleigha's siblings from her parents.

"There was concerns about the family. The lifestyle, the living conditions, the inconsistent stories that was leading up to this," said Kimes-Brown. "We were concerned, and have been concerned, about any sort of criminal conduct or foul play. There was illegal drugs found in Aleigha's system."

The drug, Kimes-Brown says, was cocaine.

"I can't say at this point- was she injected with it? Did she accidentally expose herself to it? I don't know. Those are all open questions for me. Aside from the fire investigation, that's a really significant question for me," she said.

Also in question, the State Fire Marshal's Office says: the circumstances of the fire.

"The story we were provided at the time we initiated our investigation does not match up with the development of the fire," said Chief Josh Hobbs of the State Fire Marshal's Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau. "So there's inconsistencies with the development of the fire, based on the story they gave us."

Hobbs says the fire is not currently considered an arson.

"At this point no. But we can't say that either way. But at this point no. We do believe that there is an inconsistent story provided, and there's the death of a small child. And so it's our responsibility as a team here to get to the bottom of that."

To do that, Kimes-Brown has added $10,000 in drug forfeiture money to the State Fire Marshal's $5,000 reward for information.

"There are multiple people who know what actually happened here. Not singular, but multiple people," Hobbs said. "Do the right thing. Do the right thing. Plain and simple."

10TV contacted Aleigha Hayes' parents for comment. Her father declined to speak with us.

Her paternal grandmother told us they believe the fire was started by family dogs knocking over a candle.

Asked how Aleigha came into contact with cocaine, she said she believes it was in a carpet her mother bought in south Columbus.

Anyone with information on this fire is asked to call the State Fire Marshal's tip line- 800-589-2728 or Vinton County Prosecutor Trecia Kimes-Brown at 740-596-5583.

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