The night a fire ripped through Michael Anderson’s townhome, Norcross police said he told them no one else was inside.
Anderson and his mother had made it out of the home safely, but as investigators worked to extinguish the flames they found someone unconscious in the blaze: Anderson’s girlfriend, Joanna Rutledge.
Anderson, 36, of Dacula, now faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and making false statements weeks after the May 29 fire that killed Rutledge, according to Gwinnett County jail records. At a first appearance hearing Tuesday, Anderson was granted an $11,400 bond.
Fire officials said a 911 caller, who was not identified, reported something was on fire in the kitchen about 2:40 a.m.
In arrest warrants, authorities allege Anderson repeatedly told officers that Rutledge, 32, had just left his home before the blaze broke out — all the while knowing Rutledge was in a second-floor bedroom.
Crews extinguished the flames and found Rutledge unconscious. She was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center in critical condition and later died. The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office said she died from smoke and soot inhalation.
In an interview with Channel 2 Action News, Rutledge’s mother and sister said they were suspicious of the details surrounding the fire.
“No one in the family believed that it happened as (Anderson) told the detectives that it did,” her mother, Beverly Rutledge, said.
Rutledge’s sister, Jontae, said she was wary from the start.
“The different stories that we were getting didn't make sense,” she said. “I knew something was up from the moment I found out it happened over at his house.”
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