House fire death is family's latest tragedy -
Published Friday, February 8, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 11:44 pm
House fire death is family's latest tragedy

Tragedy is no stranger to the family of an 83-year-old man who died Thursday following a north Omaha arson fire and burglary.

Raymond Vasholz died after he was pulled from his burning home. His wife, Elizabeth Vasholz, 76, was critically injured, suffering severe burns.

The Vasholzes, who lived in the home for 38 years, were the parents of Beverly Flynn, 47, one of eight people killed in the Von Maur shootings in December 2007.

The man who Omaha police say is responsible for the arson is a neighbor: Terrance J. Hale, 30, an ex-convict with a long criminal record. Hale was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, arson and burglary.

Police gave few details of what unfolded at 7124 N. 33rd St.

Hale is accused of breaking into the house about 9 a.m. and starting a fire. A police source said the Vasholzes heard noises and came downstairs to the first floor, where Hale attacked the husband.

Hale was yelling, “You've got to get out, there's a fire.”

Emergency dispatchers received the report of a house fire about 9:15 a.m. They also received calls about an assault at the same house about the same time, authorities said.

When emergency medical staff arrived, Elizabeth Vasholz was in the front yard with soot on her face and with burns.

She was taken to Creighton University Medical Center and later transferred to the burn unit at St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln, where she remained in critical condition Thursday night.

Firefighters found Raymond Vasholz inside the house, and he was taken to the Creighton med center in extremely critical condition. He died in the afternoon.

Hale was still at the scene when police arrived.

Elizabeth and Raymond Vasholz

His criminal history started in Pensacola, Fla., and continued in Omaha. He lives a short distance from the Vasholz home with his mother, Dawn Drakeford. It wasn't clear whether he knew the victims.

Drakeford obtained a protection order against her son in October 2008, saying Hale had been “very abusive” to her verbally. She alleged finding “evidence that he tried to burn my residence.”

Court records in Florida show that Hale had numerous criminal convictions there, including five for burglary, six for grand theft between $300 and $500 and four for trafficking in stolen property.

His name first showed up in Douglas County court records in 2007, and he has been sentenced to jail here at least twice. Hale received a six-month sentence in 2008 for pulling a knife on his sister and a year in 2010 for third-degree assault.

Some neighbors appeared surprised that Hale was taken into police custody.

“I saw him this morning and he said he was going to the library'' to fill out job applications, said Veronica James, 60, who runs Mo'Sher's Angels day care.

Another neighbor, Samantha Williams, 30, said Hale sought odd jobs in the neighborhood.

“He's up and down the street all the time,'' Williams said, “looking for jobs, shoveling snow and stuff like that.''

World-Herald staff writer Jay Withrow contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1272,

Video: House fire at 7124 N. 33rd St.

Contact the writer: Kevin Cole    |   402-444-1272    |  

Kevin Cole covers workings of police, courts and government and writes features about interesting subjects in Omaha and the surrounding counties.

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