A probable cause statement filed by the Prosecuting Attorney of Pettis County against two men reveals some new and disturbing details of the June 23 arson death of Matthew Eldenburg, including that more than one attempt was made by suspects to burn the victim.
According to the probable cause statement and Sedalia Police Department reports, at 1:24 p.m. June 23, Sedalia Fire Department crews responded to a house fire at 1903 S. Grand Ave., after a SPD officer on patrol called in a report of flames at the residence. Upon arrival, crews found “heavy smoke and fire” coming from the single-story residence.
The victim, Eldenburg, 30, of the residence, was found by firefighters on primary search of the residence in the kitchen area; he was the only occupant. After paramedics tried to resuscitate him, Eldenburg was pronounced dead at Bothwell Regional Health Center around 3 p.m.
The Missouri State Fire Marshal’s arrived at the scene and began their investigation, which determined the fire was arson and accelerants were used.
Investigators spoke with three witnesses who were familiar with Eldenburg who said they saw him with another male shortly before the fire on a skateboard, later identified as Aran Cantrell, 21, of Sedalia.
Another witness stated she had received phone calls from both the second suspect, Cody A. Harvey, 23, of Sedalia, and Eldenburg the night before stating they were in an argument.
Investigators then obtained Facebook messages between Harvey and Eldenburg, in which Harvey had said, “U better watch ur back is all I’m saying youngster,” at 1:32 p.m. the day of the fire, according to the statement.
Cantrell was later located at his mother’s house and was initially arrested on a no bond warrant out of Benton County.
After Cantrell agreed to be interviewed about the fire by Sedalia Police Cmdr. Matt Wirt and Sgt. Kelley Casto, Cantrell said Eldenburg was unconscious on the couch in his residence and that he went to the garage and got some gasoline and poured it on Eldenburg. He then said Harvey attempted to light Eldenburg on fire but it would not stay lit, according to the statement.
Cantrell stated that he and Harvey moved Eldenburg into the kitchen and put a shirt and headphones on him. Cantrell said he poured the gasoline throughout the house and Harvey lit the fire with the natural gas on the stove turned on. Cantrell then stated he left the house after the fire was ignited.
Police then arrested Harvey as a suspect and he agreed to be interviewed about the fire. Harvey denied knowledge of the fire, but could not explain his whereabouts from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. that day. He admitted to being in an argument with Eldenburg the prior evening and was looking for him. Later in the interview, Harvey requested an attorney.
Both Cantrell and Harvey have been charged with first degree arson. They are both at the Pettis County Jail on $250,000 bonds, cash or surety.
Pettis County Coroner Robert “Skip” Smith told the Democrat he is waiting on autopsy and toxicology results before making a final ruling on Eldenburg’s cause of death. He said he hopes to receive the results in the next week.
Tim Epperson can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1485.