Family shares struggles, hope after house intentionally set on fire

"We're not saying that what happened is okay, but we're not going to let it ruin our lives."

Posted: Jan 14, 2020 10:17 AM
Updated: Jan 22, 2020 4:39 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)— Nearly one week after police ruled a West Lafayette house fire as arson, the family who lived there is speaking out. 

As News 18 previously reported, police said a 13-year-old girl set it intentionally in the Wake Robin neighborhood last week.

News 18 sat down with the family of three to hear their side of the story.

The Janney's have called 2224 Longspur Drive their home ever since their child, who's a teenager now, was just six-months-old.

The family told News 18 they will eventually forgive whoever took their home away from them, but they're not ready to forgive just yet.

From the inside looking out, Heather Bungard-Janney said she thought it was her neighbor's house that was on fire the night of Jan. 8. 

"I could see an orange glow through the front door window."

It only took 90 seconds to realize she was wrong.

"I went up the stairs, woke everybody and we got out. We didn't stop for shoes. We didn't stop for coats," said Heather. 

From their own backyard, the Janney family watched as flames overtook their home; with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

With almost nothing left of the home, Lyle Janney decided to evaluate the situation himself. 

"I bent down, however, to touch the ground. I realized okay this is not the grass I let grow; this is bristly and hard," Lyle said. "Then I got a little bit of a whiff of something that smelled a little bit like a fuel."

Less than twelve hours later, police arrested a 13-year-old girl on a preliminary charge of arson. The girl, whose name has not yet been released, lives down the street from the Janney's and was a friend of their teenager's.

Prosecutors have not confirmed the 13-year-old in custody intentionally set the house fire, but say her alleged motive was a dispute with someone living in the home.

"Not good enough for her I guess," said Jae Janney, the only child living in the home. 

Jae and the girl had what they described as a 'falling out' several months ago. The two have not been in contact since.

"She started texting us mean stuff about us [and] saying we were not good friends," Jae said. 

Did the end of a friendship lead to the loss of Jae's childhood home?

Did a 13-year-old really do this?

With the investigation still ongoing, the Janney's aren't sure what to believe.

"I was upset. I still am upset, especially now that this has happened," Jae said. 

The Janney family said their hearts go out to the family of whoever did this.

"What happened to us was horrible," said Heather. "What's happening with them is, in its own way, equally horrible."

Lyle said whoever did this will eventually be forgiven. He explained you don't forgive someone because they deserve it, but because you don't need to hold on to the anger. 

"If I chose to be angry at whoever did this, then I'm not doing myself any favors," he said. "I'm taking exactly what they gave me and doing exactly what they want me to do with it."

There were two cats inside the home at the time of the fire. They have yet to be accounted for.

The Janney's are slowly getting back into the groove of every day life just six days after the fire. The family will soon move into a rental home.

Jae said they will be ready to go back to school soon, but not yet.

If you would like to donate to the family or send them kind thoughts, email galliendelile@gmail.com or join the Facebook group "Get Lyle and his Family Going Again." 

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