Southern Vermont Fatal House Fire Now Looks Like Double Homicide

Justin Orwat, 46 of Springfield, has been charged with aggravated murder and first degree arson as a result of a previously reported house fire on the morning of Oct. 27 in Townshend, Vermont. Orwat is currently being held at the Hampden County Jail in Ludlow for unrelated criminal charges.

Justin Orwat. Photo courtesy Springfield Police Department

The Vermont State Police and the Windham County State Attorney’s Office obtained an arrest warrant for Orwat after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the deaths of Steven Lovely, 43, and Amanda Sanderson, 35, both of 163 Shirley Circle in Townshend, as homicides.

Although the home was engulfed in flames, an autopsy showed that both victims died of gunshot wounds, according to a press release from the Vermont State Police.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 27, an emergency call was made by a resident of Shirley Circle in which the caller reported hearing an explosion. Less than 10 minutes later another call from an area resident was made reporting that the home was fully engulfed in flames. The Fire Departments of Townshend, Grafton, Dummerston all responded to the fire. Once the fire was extinguished, emergency personnel identified the bodies of Lovely and Sanderson in the burnt wreckage of the home.

Detectives with the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit and the the Bureau of Criminal Investigation Unit commenced a criminal investigation and interviewed associates and family members of Lovely and Sanderson. Investigators determined that Tami Orwat, 38, and Justin Orwat were believed to have recently spent time at the Shirley Circle residence.

Tami Orwat was located by detectives on the case and she stated that she and Justin Orwat were with Lovely and Sanderson during the night of Oct. 26 until the early morning of Oct. 27. Tami Orwat provided investigators with details about a dispute between Justin Orwat and Lovely that occurred on the morning of Oct. 27 and implicated Justin Orwat in the murders of Lovely and Sanderson.

Springfield Police officers Kurt Zimmerman and John Ruyffelaert arrested Orwat on Oct.27 on Catherine Street for several outstanding warrants, including felony breaking and entering of a vehicle at night, shoplifting, larceny, and motor vehicle violations, according to the department’s Facebook page. The warrant issued by the Vermont State Police orders Orwat held without bail. An arraignment date has yet to be determined.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at

Author: Chris Goudreau

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