Fire that badly burned girl in March an arson, officials say

WICHITA — The fire that badly burned 10-year-old Caitlyn Johnson last March is no longer considered an accident, authorities said today.

Johnson's 28-year-old stepfather has been arrested on suspicion of arson and attempted murder, Wichita Police Capt. Brent Allred said today. The arrest came Friday night after fresh interviews with family members, he said.

Investigators initially blamed a faulty electrical outlet for the fire that caused an estimated $25,000 damage to the family's mobile home in the 5400 block of South Kansas on March 14, Wichita Fire Department, officials said. Caitlyn was the only family member hurt in the fire, which started in her bedroom.

She spent months at a burn hospital before returning home, Allred said, and concerns about the quality of care she was receiving from her family upon her return prompted an investigation by SRS.

Concerns raised by a social worker prompted the SRS to notify police, and follow-up interviews led to the arrest, he said.

Caitlyn was placed in protective police custody last week, along with two younger children at the residence.

See Tuesday's Eagle for more on this story.