• Michael and Nettie Phipps died in an early morning fire at their home on March 1. 
  • The accused and two other children managed the escape the fire 
  • Police have requested anyone with information to contact them

The deaths of a 35-year-old man and his two-month-old daughter in a house fire at Edgar County, Illinois, have been ruled homicides.

The police have arrested Stefanie Sanders, 26, in connection with the murders of Michael and Nettie Phipps Monday, reports WCIA.

Sanders is the infant’s mother and had been in a relationship with the father, said Edgar County Coroner Scott Barrett while adding that more information about the murders would be announced soon.

The warrant was issued by the Edgar County State’s Attorney. The investigation is being carried out by Barrett’s office along with the Illinois State Fire Marshal and state police.

Sanders now faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of aggravated arson and one count of residential arson.

Michael and Nettie died in an early morning fire at their home on March 1. Firefighters, who were called to the home at around 1:40 a.m., saw the home engulfed in flames. Officers also found Sanders and two other children outside the home. One of the children was injured and needed medical assistance.

Sanders informed the officers that her boyfriend and their infant daughter were still inside. Further search inside the gutted house revealed the bodies of Michael and Nettie. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy conducted at Terre Haute Regional Hospital revealed that the cause of death for Michael was a combination of thermal exposure, carbon monoxide inhalation, and smoke inhalation. Nettie, on the other hand, died due to a combination of thermal exposure and carbon monoxide inhalation.

The investigation into the murders is ongoing and the police have requested anyone with information to contact the state police’s Division of Criminal Investigations for Zone 5 at 217-278-5004.

Meanwhile, friends of Michael remember him as a devoted father.

"He loved his daughter. He was goal-oriented to be the best father that she deserved and he knew he could be, and nothing and no one was going to get in the way of that," Stephanie Newell, a friend of Michael.

In a similar incident, a 17-year-old boy in New York was charged with arson after he intentionally set his family’s house on fire last March. Though the teen boy’s parents were inside the house at the time of the incident, they were able to escape without any injuries.

Representative picture Getty