Two gay men found dead in middle Georgia home

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UPDATE |Deaths of two gay men ruled murder-suicide

Two gay men in middle Georgia are dead, their bodies discovered in a Houston County home after a suspicious fire Wednesday afternoon.

The bodies of Randall Kinard, 33 (top photo left), and Christopher Michael Dukes (top photo right), 41, were found on different floors of the home on Heritage Drive in north Houston County, according to the Houston Home Journal. The county is south of Macon about 110 miles from Atlanta.

Neighbors spotted the fire about 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday and tried to alert anyone inside. When no one answered, the couple called 9-1-1. Authorities later found two bodies inside, according to WMAZ.

They saw two bodies brought out, one in a body bag, the other on a stretcher. Neighbors in the area say two men used to live the house, but have been trying to sell the property for about a year now.

The home is owned by Dukes and Ashley Battle, who bought the house in 2006, according to WMAZ.

Friends of Dukes and Kinard, a one-time bartender for gay bars in Macon, turned their Facebook pages into makeshift memorials as news of their deaths spread.

Friends say that Kinard was dating Ashley Battle and that Battle and Dukes had at one time been romantically involved. Battle did not respond to a Facebook message from Project Q Atlanta on Thursday.

Houston County fire officials requested assistance from the state fire marshal's office to investigate the incident. Laura Wright, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Insurance, which oversees the fire marshal, said the office has launched an investigation into the fire. Wright confirmed the two fatalities.

A spokesperson for the Houston County sheriff's office could not be immediately reached on Thursday.

The GBI is expected to conduct autopsies on the two men on Thursday, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Autopsies are expected to be conducted Thursday at the GBI crime lab in Macon, said Houston County Coroner Danny Galpin.

He said one of the bodies was found upstairs in the home, while the other had already been removed from the house when he arrived on scene.

Galpin said he’s not sure what authorities are dealing with and would not hazard a guess. He said he hopes that the autopsies will yield some answers.

Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton told the Telegraph that it's not yet clear if the men died before the fire.

UPDATE | Tommy Herring, the owner of Azul Salon & Spa in Macon where Kinard worked, told the Telegraph that Kinard was last seen about 11 a.m. on Wednesday as he rushed out of the salon. Dukes and Battle were apparently selling the house, according to nightclub owner Alex Webb.

Via the Telegraph:

Former Middle Georgia nightclub owner Alex Webb knew all three men.

“It’s really bad because a beautiful life has been taken,” Webb said.

Sheriff's Capt. John Holland says the fire was intentionally set. Investigators are trying to piece together what happened, but are concentrating on the house and a Jeep left in the driveway. Holland told the Telegraph that they don't anticipate having “a separate crime scene.”

“We have a good indication this fire was intentionally set and found evidence at the scene there was foul play involved,” Holland said.

He declined to say whether any firearms were recovered at the house.

[top images via and via, bottom image courtesy WMAZ]

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