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Murder suspect’s lake house burns down

A house at Smith Mountain Lake owned by a former educator accused of killing his wife has burned to the ground.

Wesley Earnest, a former high school assistant principal, was charged last year with the Dec. 2007 slaying of his wife, Jocelyn Branham Earnest, at her Forest, Va. home, reports The News & Advance. Bedford County prosecutors accuse Earnest of staging the scene to appear as if his wife shot herself in the head. His trial is scheduled for June.

Firefighters arrived on the scene about 7 p.m. Friday, but the house was already engulfed in flames. Crews battled the fire for an hour, but there was little they could do to save the house. No one was injured in the blaze.

Earnest’s lawyer would not comment on his client’s whereabouts at the time of the fire. Neighbors said they hadn’t seen him for at least two days.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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