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Woman was fatally stabbed before fire set at Castle Rock home

Matthew Buchanan was arrested in Florida and is accused of his killing his mother before setting their home on fire in April.

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — A man now facing charges in connection with an April fire in Castle Rock fatally stabbed his mother and then left the smoke-filled home with his paraplegic uncle still inside with no way to escape, an arrest affidavit says.

Matthew Buchanan, 32, was arrested May 3 by authorities in Monroe County, Florida. He was extradited to Colorado and booked into the Douglas County jail.

>The video above aired in May when Buchanan was arrested.

He was named as a person of interest in the April 26 fire at a home on Dove Valley Place where Elizabeth Bjorlow, 59, was found dead and another person was injured. Bjorlow is Buchanan's biological mother.

RELATED: Son arrested in connection with Castle Rock woman's death extradited from Florida

Content warning. Some of the details below may not be suitable for everyone. 

When a Castle Rock officer arrived at the home on the day of the fire, he was greeted by a man outside who said the home's door was locked and there was a paraplegic man still inside.

The officer could see smoke coming from the left side of the home and in an effort to gain entry, he kicked the door near the locking mechanism. After about 14 kicks he was able to get the door open.

Once inside he followed a voice and located a man who appeared to be immobile in a bed in a front room, the affidavit says. By that time, firefighters had also arrived on scene, and they worked to rescue the man from the home, while the officer continued searching for other possible occupants.

The officer made his way to the kitchen area where he saw a woman lying on the floor in a large pool of blood, with no signs of life, the affidavit says.

He continued searching the home for other possibly trapped residents and eventually noticed a box in the foyer of the home that was "smoldering" and warm to the touch, according to the affidavit.

No one else was located, but investigators noted that a side bedroom was "heavily damaged" by fire and smoke. A majority of its contents were burned or melted, the affidavit says. Firefighters said they believed the door to the room had been shut, which slowed the fire's spread to other areas of the home.

Suspected foul play

Minutes before the fire was reported, a video from a neighbor's doorbell camera showed a white minivan making a U-turn in the cul-de-sac. As it did, the tires squealed, the affidavit says.

Investigators learned the family owned a white van and it was previously driven by Buchannan. The van was not located at the scene.

Credit: Castle Rock Police
Matthew Buchanan, 32, was last seen driving a white Dodge minivan with a Colorado temporary license plate number 396437, Castle Rock Police said.

Fire personnel located three points of origin for the fire inside the home, the affidavit says. They included:

  • Buchanan's bedroom
  • A cardboard box in an office area
  • Bjorlow's body and clothing were set on fire

Bjorlow had numerous injuries including wounds on her neck, face, hands and arms. An autopsy found no soot in her lungs, which meant she was dead before the fire started. The coroner concluded she had two fatal stab wounds to her neck.

Witness statements on Buchanan

Buchanan's stepfather explained that his family, including Buchanan and his wife, were the primary caretakers for his brother who had a stroke 11 years ago and is paraplegic, the affidavit says.

He explained that Buchanan had been diagnosed as bipolar in the 2000s and said that the day before the fire he and his wife were "getting on" Buchanan about not staying on his tasks related to the care of his uncle.

In one example, he said Buchanan had given his uncle his medication an hour late. He also mentioned an incident a "few years ago" during which he said Buchanan had choked his mother during an argument, according to the affidavit.

RELATED: 'Person of interest' in Castle Rock fire is victim's son, records show

Detectives interviewed Buchanan's uncle but there were communication barriers due to his prior stroke. However, he did report that Buchanan and his mother were yelling at each other, but said Buchanan was doing most of the yelling.

He reported that Buchanan then left the house in the white van and shortly after smoke began to enter his bedroom, the affidavit says. He reported that he saw Buchanan after the yelling but never saw his mother.

Tracking Buchanan

Investigators initiated pings on two cellphones known to belong to Buchanan and both were located along Founders Parkway, as if they had been discarded from a vehicle, the affidavit says.

Georgia law enforcement contacted authorities in Colorado with possible information about the case, the affidavit says.

CRPD detectives learned that Buchanan's biological father and other family members lived in that state. His biological father had contacted authorities saying he was concerned about Buchanan's behavior and said he had been making threats toward family members.

He told law enforcement that Buchanan and his sister had been exchanging emails and said within the last 24 hours his behavior had "drastically changed," the affidavit says.

He said during those emails, Buchanan became "extremely upset and erratic" without any reason, according to the document. He was making threats including threats to kill his sister and her family, the affidavit says.

Based on this information, and the possibility that Buchanan might be headed to Georgia, investigators had his bank account monitored for any out-of-state activity. Transactions were recorded in Kansas and Missouri on the day after the fire.

He was eventually arrested in Florida on May 3, but it's not known how he was tracked there because the arrest affidavit was drafted prior to his arrest.

Credit: Castle Rock Police Department
Matthew Buchanan

Buchanan was being held on suspicion of:

  • First-degree murder after deliberation
  • First-degree murder (criminal attempt)
  • Three counts of first-degree arson
  • Tampering with a deceased body
  • Criminal mischief
  • Tampering with physical evidence
  • Two counts of cruelty to animals

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