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Custody dispute in days leading up to fire

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Home at 6603 Timber Brook Court Home at 6603 Timber Brook Court
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

The mother and daughter who deputies say may have made a suicide pact that led to a house fire this weekend were recently involved in a custody dispute with the girl's father.

The information came out during a hearing for the father, James Clark, raising questions about the details surrounding the fire and Clark's subsequent arrest for aggravated battery.

An assistant state attorney told a judge Tuesday that the 12-year-old daughter had changed her story, no longer supporting her mother Nancy Lowe's version of events involving Clark allegedly going to Lowe's home and striking her with his hands and a lamp on Thursday night.

Clark's attorney Anthony Rickman said in court that Clark "was nowhere near the residence where this incident allegedly occurred." 

Clark and Lowe had recently been involved in a custody dispute over their daughter. On Friday, Clark filed a report with Pasco County Sheriff's Office reporting Lowe didn't show up to return the girl as planned, and he couldn't reach either of them. The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office sent someone to check on them, but was not able to make contact, according to a sheriff's office report.

On Saturday afternoon, Hillsborough deputies said neighbors helped rescue Lowe and her daughter from their burning Tampa home.

According to neighbors, there were some kids in the neighborhood playing basketball when they saw smoke coming out of the Lowe's garage door.  The kids ran towards the garage, but as they did, deputies say the garage door went down. 

Somehow neighbors were able to get into the house and drag out Lowe, and daughter.

Both were transported to Tampa General Hospital, suffering from minor smoke inhalation. 

After Hillsborough County Sheriff investigators said they believe that 52-year-old Lowe and her 12-year-old daughter may have made a suicide pact.

After obtaining a search warrant for Lowe's home, deputies discovered several suicide notes.  It was also learned that earlier in the day, the Lowe's daughter had gone to a neighbor and borrowed gasoline.  

In the battery case, Judge Walter Heinrich set bond at $15,000 and ordered Clark not to have contact with the girl or Lowe. 

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