COVINGTON, La. — A fire chief in a New Orleans suburb has been cleared in the shooting that killed his wife and the fire that destroyed their home.

“It’s very overwhelming — that it’s finally said out loud and it’s not just me that knows it,” Stephen Krentel said after the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff told a news conference Thursday that he was not suspected in the case.

“Now the focus can be on Nanette and not on the sheriff’s office or coroner’s office or anybody but her and getting justice for her,” Krentel said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

He said he had no idea who might have shot his wife and set fire to their home. He lost everything to the fire, he said.

Sheriff Randy Smith said in a news release that Krentel had been “our initial primary person of interest,” but had cooperated fully and was cleared.

Nanette Krentel’s body was found in their home in Lacombe, about 25 miles north of New Orleans, after firefighters put out a blaze July 14.

“The fire was intentionally set,” Chief Deputy Brant Thompson, of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said in a telephone interview. “Beyond that, we’ll reserve comment as to the particulars of the fire, as this is an active investigation.”

On Wednesday, Smith reacted to the coroner’s statement that the death was homicide with a news release saying, “At this time, the Sheriff’s Office investigation does not necessarily support the Coroner’s conclusion in this case.”

He said Thursday that he was not arguing with the coroner’s opinion but concerned about the statement’s timing, since detectives are still waiting for lab results.

Smith read a statement and took no questions at a news conference Thursday, news media reported.

“We have worked this case tirelessly and aggressively as a homicide since day one, and will continue to do so,” the sheriff said.

His news release did not mention any current suspects.

Thompson said, “The level of damage caused by the fire made for some difficult crime scene work, to say the least.”

Krentel, chief in St. Tammany Parish District 12, was never arrested and never faced any charges.

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JANET McCONNAUGHEY
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