Police investigating early morning fire at Kutis Funeral Home


Fire and police personnel on the scene of a fire at Kutis Funeral Home on Lemay Ferry Road Friday morning. Photo by Gloria Lloyd.

Fire and police personnel on the scene of a fire at Kutis Funeral Home on Lemay Ferry Road Friday morning. Photo by Gloria Lloyd.

Police believe an early morning fire Friday at Kutis Funeral Home off Lemay Ferry Road was arson.

Kutis, 5255 Lemay Ferry Road, also has locations in Affton and south city.

The funeral home’s roof was heavily damaged when someone caused the fire by throwing two “fire-producing devices” on the roof, the St. Louis County Police Department said.

No one was injured in the fire, and an overnight worker sleeping in the basement of the funeral home got out safely.

A county police officer on routine patrol noticed a small fire while driving by the funeral home at 4:37 a.m. Friday.

Assistant Chief Dan LaFata of the Mehlville Fire Protection District said the MFPD’s firefighters found a fire blazing “from the roof area” when they arrived.

That fire was “quickly extinguished,” LaFata said.

Together, police and firefighters cleared the building and got the Kutis worker out of the funeral home, police said.

The fire district called a second alarm just in case they needed extra manpower, but all the crews that responded to the second alarm were quickly released, he said.

Footage from KTVI Channel 2’s Skyfox helicopter taken around 4:45 a.m. show firefighters on the roof of the funeral home dousing a fire with water.

The majority of the damage to the roof is not from the fire, but from the water used to put it out, police said.

Holes in the roof in the middle of the funeral home were visible this morning to reporters, who were kept away from the crime scene by a Kutis employee “due to an arson investigation.” Reporters gathered across the street from the funeral home.

The case would be first-degree arson if the suspect or suspects are caught, police said.

The St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit, a joint initiative with the county police and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, is conducting the investigation.

When the investigation was still preliminary, St. Louis County Police Department spokesman Shawn McGuire initially said, “It’s just a fire as of right now. Multiple resources including our Crime Scene Unit and Bomb and Arson Unit are there assisting with the investigation.”

A visitation and a funeral are scheduled to be held at the Kutis South County Chapel, as it calls that location, Saturday morning. There was not yet word on whether those would be rescheduled.

The funeral home hosted the funeral Thursday for Specialist Jack Johnson of Hillsboro, who was killed in a non-combat-related incident in Kuwait March 5.

Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Oakville, connected the arson to the funeral Thursday, tweeting, “The Hate Must Stop!”

The funeral home is also directly across the street from the Yorktowne Apartments, an apartment complex that was the scene of an officer-involved shooting Wednesday.

Police are asking anyone with information about the arson to contact the St. Louis County Police Department at 636-529-8210 to speak to investigators.

To remain anonymous or potentially receive a reward, witnesses can contact CrimeStoppers at 1-866-371-TIPS(8477) with information.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.