At first, Kentucky State Police said they were working on a "death investigation" after the passing of former Evarts mayor Ronnie King. Now, they're calling it a "murder investigation."
Earlier this week, first responders were called to King's home on Kelly Street in the Harlan County town after reports that his home was on fire. They found his body inside the burned structure.
Now, police say a gunshot wound killed the 59-year-old.
"Small communities like this, you feel more safe, more secure. Everyone knows everyone. All this stuff happens somewhere else," said longtime friend Preston McLain.
King was mayor of the coal mining community of less than 1,000 people in the 1980s and 1990s. In this time, McLain, who served on city council with King, said his number one goal was the growth of his town.
"He helped rebuild city hall and the fire department here after the building did burn. That was quite a task," McLain added.
No arrests have been made yet, which has many in the town concerned about who killed the former mayor.
"Don't know what the outcome will be, but it would really surprise me if it's local," McLain said. "This is a very sick person who would do this."
Funeral services for King are scheduled for Friday.