Capital murder charges filed in death of woman found by firefighters in Highlands home


Ethen Drake, 21, is charged with capital murder for the December 13 stabbing death of Caroline Stagner. The 72-year-old woman was found by firefighters responding to a fire at her home in the 800 block of Clear Lake in the Highlands.

The suspect actually lives just three blocks from the crime scene. Crime tape and a sign for the reward money involving this case were still visible at the home, even as Harris County investigators announced they have their man.

Detectives say Drake stabbed Stagner to death and then tried to cover it up by setting her house on fire back in December. According to court documents, the suspect called a friend to pick him up and take him to Gladewater, Texas, on the day of the fire. Investigators say they found the elderly woman's pill bottles and jewelry in a burn pile in the suspect's backyard.

One neighbor said, "One of the cops told us they found the woman's belongings over there and I said, 'Wow.' It blew my mind, because you never know your neighbors until you get to talk to them."

When interviewed by detectives, the suspect denied any involvement saying he had already moved to Gladewater the day of the fire. But authorities say they have a jailhouse interview between the suspect and his family where he admits he lied to police and said they "wouldn't find anything on him because he washed his clothes 500 times."

Authorities tell us Drake is also accused of setting a neighbor's house on fire in Gladewater and then taking blank checks and pills from that home.

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