They have not forgotten what happened 10 years ago.
Seemingly everyone with a connection to the Jeffersonville community remembers the horror they experienced when learning that a beloved 8-year-old local girl had been killed inside her home by a fire that was set intentionally. Some remember it more vividly – law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, other first responders, and of course, the family of the girl.
On Wednesday – the 10th anniversary of Mackenzie Taylor Branham’s death – many of those who experienced the tragedy firsthand held a remembrance in honor of the little girl who would be approaching her 19th birthday if her life had not been stolen away. This remembrance at Mackenzie’s gravesite at Fairview Cemetery in Jeffersonville also served as a stark reminder that although the arson case has never been solved, Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, other investigators, and Mackenzie’s father, Donald Branham, are resolute in their determination to find that one last piece of information.
“We’re still looking for information,” said Stanforth. “This case is something we’ve worked on literally every day. BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) has been involved in the case for a very long time, but they have now expanded their Crimes Against Children unit and they’ve assigned an agent to continue this case as one of their priority cases. We always try to get more eyes on this than just one person, just in case something was missed.”
Mackenzie died in a corner bedroom during the early morning hours of April 27, 2006 when the fire swept through her two-story home at 7 E. Walnut St. in Jeffersonville. Her mother, Mary Branham, and another resident escaped the home without injury. By the time firefighters from the Jefferson Township and Washington C.H. fire departments arrived and were able to search the upstairs, Mackenzie was dead.
Members of the Jefferson Township Fire Department were also on hand Wednesday for the remembrance.
“Some of my guys now, these firefighters, were in Mackenzie’s class,” said Aaron Hauer, Jefferson Township fire chief. “Although it’s been 10 years, we aren’t giving up. Hopefully someone catches a conscience and lets us know what happened. Ten years later, but this is still very real for our community. We owe it to Mackenzie to make sure we never forget.”
Hauer and Stanforth placed a wreath by the gravesite on Wednesday. Robin Beekman, owner of Robin’s Nest in Jeffersonville, donated the wreath.
Stanforth said he still believes the information that would finally solve this case is out there, just waiting to be divulged.
“Someone has information that they haven’t shared with us….we know that,” said Stanforth. “BCI looked at this comprehensively and independently of the state fire marshal’s office, and they concurred that it was arson. There is no question in our minds that it was deliberately set. Now it’s about finding that missing piece. The hurt of losing a child is immeasurable and we are in contact with the father on a regular basis. We are not going to give up on this.”
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica.