On August 5, 2016, at approximately 5:50 a.m., Willamette Valley Communications Center received a report of a fire at the City Center Motel, located at 538 SW Coast Highway, in Newport. The caller reported one room was on fire.
Newport Fire and Newport Police Departments responded to the fire. The fire had begun to engulf the center rooms of the motel. Police officers began the evacuation of the motel, as the fire was rapidly spreading. Fire personnel began to suppress the fire, which was determined to have started in a ground-level room. As the fire continued to spread, additional resources were dispatched to the scene. Fire apparatus and personnel from Toledo, Depoe Bay, North Lincoln, Seal Rock, Waldport, and Yachats responded to assist.
Fire personnel conducted an initial sweep of the motel, and did not locate any persons. Four guests were transported to Samaritan Pacific Community Hospital, three with minor injuries. Those three people were treated and released. One motel guest, later identified as Rebecca Joanne Sinclair,was admitted to Samaritan Pacific Community Hospital for burns and smoke inhalation, and later transported to the Legacy Emmanuel Burn Center. Ms. Sinclair, who had been a registered City Center Motel guest in room 103, was later identified as a person of interest in the cause of the fatal fire.
Guests at the Days Inn, south of the City Center Motel, were also evacuated as the fire spread to the north part of the Days Inn complex. Temporary shelter was established at the Newport Armory. The Red Cross responded to the scene to assist with displaced guests. Highway 101 was closed, and traffic diverted around the fire scene until 11:00 a.m.
Police and fire personnel accounted for all guests registered at the City Center Motel except the occupants of two rooms. Once the fire was controlled, police and fire personnel began to search the rooms that were heavily damaged by fire. At 4:00 p.m., two bodies, one male and one female, were discovered beneath burned rubble. The bodies were identified as motel guests Tammi Sue Hepner, age 51, and Allen Arthur Hepner, age 63, both of Portland, Oregon. They had been staying in room 221.
At approximately 8:00 p.m., two additional bodies were discovered deeper in the burned rubble. The bodies were identified as motel guests Sandra Sue Shoemaker, age 60, and Danny Keith Shoemaker, age 64, both of Springfield, Oregon. They had been staying in room 220. The origin of the fire was determined to be room 103, which is the ground-level room occupied by Ms. Sinclair. The likely cause of the fire was determined to be careless discard of smoking materials.
The investigation was cooperatively conducted by the Newport Police Department, and the Newport Fire Department, with assistance from the State of Oregon Fire Marshall’s Office. As a result of the investigation, a Lincoln County Grand Jury found Rebecca Sinclair’s actions to be negligent and reckless, resulting in a true bill of indictment. An indictment warrant of arrest was issued on March 1, 2017 for the following charges:
Manslaughter 2nd Degree x4
Criminally Negligent Homicide x4
Recklessly Endangering x7
On March 2, 2017, Ms. Sinclair was located in Washington State and arrested. She refused to waive extradition, and a Governor’s Warrant was obtained. The warrant was served on April 17, 2017. Ms. Sinclair was extradited to Lincoln County. She is being held on $750,000.00 bond in the Lincoln County Jail.