HOSCHTON — The four people who were found dead in a house fire last week were killed before the fire was set.

An accelerant was used to set the fire in an attempt to cover up the killings, Glenn Allen, spokesman for state Fire Commissioner John Oxendine, said Monday.

Officials would not say how the victims were killed, but their deaths were classified as homicides from evidence found during autopsies. Officials initially said the fire was accidental.

Also on Monday, police continued to focus their investigation on a man witnesses said they saw running from the burning house. Police believe someone drove the man to Winder right after the fire started, so they searched for him there.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Fred Stephens said authorities have not identified the man seen running from the burning house, but said, “we have specific information about him, I can tell you that.” He would not say what relationship, if any, connected the man to the victims.

Three of the victims have been identified as Marvelette J’Laine Strickland, 29, and her children, J. Manjuan Tyshein Stringer, 4, and J. Lasia Asiyne Stringer, 2. The fourth victim has not yet been positively identified.

A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information on the fire.

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