Man charged after wife, daughter found dead in Sanford apartment fire

SANFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- A husband has been charged after firefighters battling an apartment fire in Sanford Monday afternoon discovered the bodies of a woman and her 13-year-old daughter.

Concern is also mounting for the woman's 17-year-old son, who loved ones believe to be endangered alongside the suspect.

Firefighters were called to the complex in the 900 block of Clark Circle around 1:30 p.m. after a resident called 911 to report she smelled a strong odor of gasoline.

"Me and my son were playing video games in my living room. All of a sudden, we smelled gasoline. I'm the one that dialed 911, told my son let's get everybody out," said Crystal Epps.

"Fire trucks came out here. They broke down the door and there was all this black smoke coming out of there and coming out the back," Epps continued.

The outside of the building showed little evidence of the fire inside the second-floor apartment, and police have not said if the woman and her daughter died in the blaze or before.

Billy Jo McLean, 54, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Calandra McLean and her daughter, TaShonna.

He is not in custody. TaShonna's brother, Tobias, is also missing.

Concern for Tobias

A large vigil united McLean family and friends Tuesday evening, right beside the family's apartment unit.

A good portion of the prayer centered around the safe return of Tobias McLean. His close family members worry teen may be endangered alongside his stepfather, Billy Jo.

"We are really concerned about this boy," said Minister Joann Jackson, Tobias's maternal grandmother.

Jackson described Tobias as a kind, young man who never met any strangers. He was active in his high school JROTC program, and like his mother and sister, had a bubbly personality.

Jackson said her grandson doesn't know what's going on, and she asked the public to reach out if they see Billy Jo's van.

"Tobias, if you listening or you get to see this, your grandmomma's calling out," Jackson said looking into television cameras from her front yard Tuesday afternoon. "Call me. Get to a phone somehow or another and call us so we know where you are because we love you and we're praying that God would bring you back to us."

"We pray that he's safe, that he's alive, and that he's okay," said Carla Hooker, Toshonna's dance teacher.

Hooker spoke from a hospital room Tuesday afternoon. As she checked in for complications due to sickle cell Monday afternoon, firefighters were recovering her student's body.

Hooker also attended church with the McLeans and described the mother and her children as happy and energetic.

She last saw Calandra and Billy Jo at a July 4 wedding, and the children just a few weeks ago in dance class.

Tobias had run to her for a kiss on the forehead and a bear hug.

"Just praying for his safety -- that he'd be okay," Hooker said through tears.

Burial Fund

Alexander Brower is a photographer who shot the McLean's wedding five years ago.

He also saw the couple at that July 4 wedding and thought they looked good sitting in the front row.

"I thought 'Gee, they looked to be so well,'" he said.

Brower drove by the family home in disbelief Tuesday morning, saying Billy Jo's capture is what many hope for if he is responsible for the murders.

"That's the best you can hope for," he said.

While investigators work to locate Billy Jo and Tobias McLean, the family is trying to lay Calandra and TaShonna to rest.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover funeral costs. Click here to donate.

Report a Typo

Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.