Suspect in Townshend murders in custody

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TOWNSHEND, Vt. (WCAX) State police are now calling the deaths of two people in Townshend last week a murder and an arson.

Justin Orwat

Police were called to the home at 163 Shirley Circle Friday morning after neighbors reported hearing an explosion and then seeing fire. During the investigation that followed, authorities found two burned bodies inside. But it wasn't until Wednesday that they identified who they were and how they really died.

Police say 46-year-old Justin Orwat of Springfield, Massachusetts shot two of his housemates and then torched the Townshend home. "Detectives are literally sifting through the remains of this, and trying to identify any evidence," said Vermont State Police Maj. Glenn Hall.

Police say Orwat got into a fight with 43-year-old Steven Lovely at their Shirley Circle home early Friday morning after the two had allegedly used heroin, cocaine, marijuana, bath salts and Klonopin.

Orwat's wife, Tami Orwat, told investigators the dispute erupted after Lovely accused him of stealing. "We do know there is some drug involvement," Maj. Hall said.

In court documents, Tami Orwat told police investigators that she heard multiple gunshots that could've been as much as 10 minutes apart. She said she fled the home with her husband, who revealed to her that he had set the home on fire. "We had an arson K9 that alerted for the presence of accelerants at the scene," Maj. Hall said.

Police were called to the scene after two bodies were discovered amid the aftermath. The second victim is believed to be Lovely's girlfriend, 35-year-old Amanda Sanderson. The Chief Medical Examiner's office says both victims died of gunshot wounds. Lovely was shot in the Torso, and Sanderson in the head.

"It's pretty scary that it's right next door," said Kristen Sulzman, a neighbor. Neighbors called police after seeing the flames and hearing a reported explosion. The state's Crime Scene Search Team and Arson units have been at the scene looking for evidence since Saturday and have received help from the FBI.

"I was talking to a gentleman that lives in Townshend and he said, 'You have a neighbor up the street that lives in the log cabin -- he's bad news -- don't even go talk to him,'" Sulzman said.

Police say all four individuals involved in the incident had been pulled over earlier in October. Authorities say they had $47,000 in cash, white powder, and traces of marijuana with them.