Nearly seven months after a Clark County man killed his mother and a sheriff’s deputy before he died in a fire that engulfed his mobile home, state investigators have released their detailed files.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation this month released a file that contained more than 70 documents, plus several video and audio files, in BCI’s review of the July 24 deaths of Cole White, 27, his mother, Jodie Arbuckle, 47, and Clark County deputy Matthew Yates, 41.
The case went before a Clark County grand jury in February, where it determined White shot and killed his mother, then killed Yates who responded to 911 calls, before White died in a fire hours later in Harmony Estates east of Springfield.
The file provided details about what happened on July 24, as well as details about what led up to the day. For example, investigators determined multiple people tried talking to White through his windows because of worry about his mental health and safety.
Among key topics of the BCI investigation:
- Several factors were considered for possible sources of ignition to the mobile home fire.
The fire started hours after the shootings of Arbuckle and Yates, but minutes after SWAT teams were able to retrieve Yates’ body from the mobile home.
A representative from the Ohio Division of State Fire Marshal arrived the following day to assist with debris removal and fire pattern analysis.
Although the state fire marshal ruled the cause of the fire was “undetermined,” several possible ignition sources were investigated. Those included intentional human act, a failure in the electrical system or a device within the mobile home, a failure of a lithium battery in a downed police drone, a candle or other open flame being disrupted, and heat or sparks of chemical agents used during retrieval attempts, according to the report.
Investigators determined the fire began somewhere in the area of the dining room, living room and kitchen of the mobile home.
“With the resultant damage, a more defined area of origin could not be determined,” the report said.
The fire was able to spread rapidly because of the availability of oxygen to feed the fire. Investigators determined this resulted from glass being broken out of multiple window openings after an armored vehicle struck the southeast corner of the mobile home in an attempt to retrieve Yates.
- Multiple loved ones of White, who was estranged from his family, were concerned for his mental health, and reached out to him.
The fiancee of Arbuckle, Kristin Mills, told investigators in an interview that White cut ties with Arbuckle’s family two years prior while he was experiencing poor mental health.
Mills said Arbuckle was contacted by the Logan County Sheriff’s Office in March 2022 after White had an incident with deputes. Cole was sent to Columbus for a psychological evaluation, but he was later transported back to Logan County, where he gave deputies his mother’s name and number for his release, the interview report stated.
Mills told investigators that neighbors would tell them White appeared frail when he would go for walks at night, as if he hadn’t been eating.
She and Arbuckle would often drive past his mobile home during evenings to try to communicate with him through a window, asking him to switch lights on and off in response to questions they asked.
Arbuckle and Mills were also covering the cost of rent for White after Harmony Estates mobile home community was attempting to evict him for non-payment, according to the interview report.
Mills told investigators she and Arbuckle attended a court hearing for White for firearm related charges out of Greene County. He did not attend the hearing, and Arbuckle called the Clark County Sheriff’s Office to ask for a wellness check after two of White’s friends went to his mobile home and saw him lying on the ground with a gun near him.
A childhood friend of White who lived near him at the mobile home park described him as “hyper-intelligent” and “battling demons.” He told investigators White had poor mental health and may have been using hallucinogenic drugs. He would often drop off food at White’s trailer.
The childhood friend said he tried to communicate with White through his window two days before the shooting, but was only greeted with a “thousand-yard stare.” He told investigators he and White hadn’t had a single conversation within six months before July 24.
Arbuckle’s sister and White’s aunt, Deanna, told investigators that White’s mental health declined four to five years before. He talked about spirituality, nature, and the earth frequently during that time.
Arbuckle’s sister at one point a few years ago contacted the sheriff’s office after White discontinued contact with his family. White later agreed to a mental health evaluation after police could not locate him at his residence and found him elsewhere, but he received inpatient treatment for less than seven days before his release. White sought out out-patient care and self-reported he was experiencing delusional thoughts. He refused to take medications, according to the interview report.
His aunt believes he was taking the psychedelic DMT before his hospital stay, the interview report stated.
- White’s mother remained on the phone with her fiancee as she checked on White in the trailer.
In the morning of July 24, Abuckle entered into White’s mobile home after attempting to call him several times and not getting a response. Arbuckle told her finacee before entering that she was not afraid of her son, as he had never been violent to her.
Mills remained on the phone with Arbuckle as she made her way through the trailer, announcing her presence and calling out to White as she entered every room. Arbuckle had trouble seeing inside the mobile home, as every room was dark.
Mills told Arbuckle to turn back if she was too scared to search the residence. Arbuckle told her finacee that she was not afraid, and the couple exchanged an “I love you.”
Arbuckle searched through White’s bedroom and found him in a closet.
Moments later, Mills said she heard her fiancee scream and then heard White say “I’m sorry, mom. I’m sorry,” before hearing a gunshot.
Mills tried to enter the mobile home herself, but could not make herself go down the hall toward the bedroom. She also tried calling Arbuckle’s phone again, but it was powered off. She then called police, the investigative report said.
Mills told investigators she will be “forever thankful” that Deputy Yates tried to save Arbuckle.
- White had multiple weapons in his possession and wanted to be “self-sufficient”
Mark Arbuckle, Arbuckle’s brother and the uncle of White, said White severed ties with him a year before the shooting and fire because White thought his uncle was “toxic for his lifestyle.”
His uncle said White had a few guns and a crossbow in his possession after he took up hunting several years before.
A few neighbors of White in other interviews indicated seeing him walk around in the evenings with a machete-like weapon.
The uncle told investigators White was “pretty good at killing squirrels” and “wanted to be self-sufficient.”
At one point during White’s seven-day long hospital stay three to four years prior to the July 24 incident, Mark Arbuckle said he confiscated White’s weapons. Sometime months later, he returned the weapons to White, believing White seemed better. White cut off contact with him a couple of years after that.
Three guns were located in the remains of the trailer: two handguns and a rifle, all legally purchased.