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House fire in NC takes the lives of two Marine vets, being considered homicide

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Update: This incident is being considered a double homicide. The sheriff’s office say autopsy results show the victims both died of gunshot wounds.

The crime scene tape has been removed and one of the three cars parked in front of the burnt home has been taken away, but still questions remain about what happened to the two men found inside the burnt Haw Branch Road home.

The house at 1872 Haw Branch Road near Richlands burned late Saturday night and into early Sunday morning. Firefighters found 33-year-old Staff Sgt. Cody Wade Smith and 43-year-old Gregory Thomas Pearce inside.

Smith was a Marine who’d served two tours in Afghanistan. He joined the in 2001 and was assigned to 2nd Light Armored Recon Battalion, according to information provided Monday by Camp Lejeune.

It was after one of his deployments that he met Tiffany Karnes, who said the two were longtime friends.

The was important to Smith, Karnes said. He wanted to provide for his family.

“He served this country with honor and pride and he loved doing it,” she said.

His personal decorations include Navy and Commendation Medal, Navy and Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Combat Instructor Ribbon, NATO Medal- ISAF Afghanistan and NATO Medal-NATO Operations and Activities in Relation to Libya.

Smith’s older sister, Toni Wilson, said he chose that career path because he liked the structure and stability, and he loved knowing he could help other people.

When he was home, he was able to compartmentalize and separate his home life from his work life, she added.

Wilson and Karnes both described Smith as a wonderful father, an amazing man who went above and beyond for others, always making sure those around him didn’t go without.

“He (was) the most calming, caring person I have ever met in my entire life,” Wilson said. “He was an amazing brother, friend (and) confidant. He didn’t deserve this.”

Details about the night Smith died have not been released by the investigating agencies. The house he was found in was being rented by his wife, Monica Smith, to whom he was married 15 years, according to Wilson.

Monica and Cody Smith have two children, Carrie and Jeremiah, Karnes said. They were at Cody Smith’s house on Saturday night, Wilson said.

Cody Smith returned from a deployment to Bulgaria on July 31, according to Wilson, and Monica Smith moved into the Haw Branch Road house soon after.

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(c)2016 The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.) at www.jdnews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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