A relative has confirmed the identities of a family of three found dead following a suspicious house fire in Nanaimo Tuesday, including a seven-year-old girl who had a deep appreciation for music.

The bodies of Jason Stephenson, Amberlee Scarr and their young daughter Piper Stephenson were pulled out of a laneway house that burst into flames in the 700-block of Nicol Street, a family member confirmed Wednesday.

"Just crippling. There's no words," said Peter Hudson, a close friend of Amberlee. "Both parents loved their daughter immensely. It's what kept them together."

Neighbours say the family was kind and Piper was known around the block for her love of music.

"I feel so bad. She was a beautiful, very talented young girl and her dad really believed she was going to be a wonderful musician and was very excited," said Carolyn Butula.

Other friends tell CTV News that Jason lived with Piper at the home and Amberlee had recently moved back in with them.

They said there had been an ongoing dispute between the two parents over custody of Piper.

RCMP confirmed in a news conference Wednesday morning that the three people killed were a family, but did not confirm their identity or comment on reports of a custody battle.

"At this time we have no other information about the people involved in the fire, other than it was a male and female and a seven-year-old child," Cpl. Jon Stuart told reporters.

Asked why the child would have been home on a regular school day, Stuart said it wasn't a Pro-D day and investigators don't have answers as to why she was at the home.

RCMP also responded to neighbours' reports saying they'd heard shouting and glass breaking at the home at the time of the fire.

Stuart said the loud noise was actually a passerby who spotted the fire and was trying to raise the alarm to get people outside.

"People heard banging and yelling and might've attributed that to something," he said. "There's no altercation that we have any knowledge of prior to the fire."

The family's cause of death is still unclear. Police weren't confirming that Wednesday, saying there was much investigative work left to do.

"An investigation like this does take time, because we take it slow and we try to do it as methodically as possible," said Stuart.

He said investigators are talking to neighbours and following up with the BC Coroner's Service to determine cause of death.

But CTV News has obtained video from the crime scene showing bodies that do not appear to be burned.

The fire is considered suspicious because a point of origin has not yet been determined.

Stuart said there's nothing to suggest anyone else was involved in the blaze.

The school the girl attended has been notified and is providing counselling for staff and students.

Police tape surrounding the home had been taken down as of early Wednesday evening as the investigation continues. 


With files from CTV Vancouver