EastpointeJuly 13, 2012
Arson suspected in fire that killed five pets
By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer
The Eastpointe and Roseville fire departments are working together, along with the Eastpointe Police Department, in investigating a house fire that killed five pets and injured a sixth.
Officials have confirmed that the Eastpointe fire “appears to have been intentionally set,” and their initial investigation and witness interviews have led them to believe that it wasn’t just arson, but the intentional killing of the animals inside.
What was supposed to be a rare carefree night ended in tragedy when a single mother of two decided to enjoy an evening out with friends.
When Amanda Bell’s two young daughters were invited to a sleepover on July 6, Bell took the opportunity to spend time with friends and a recently-met male acquaintance, investigators say.
It wasn’t until the group returned to Bell’s home in the 21000 block of Shakespeare on the city’s south end that the unnamed male acquaintance began to exhibit signs of aggression toward Bell’s 10-month-old pit bull Havoc.
“I had known him for about a month,” Bell said of the man. “We were just friends but he wanted more. He said he was looking for love. I have text messages that prove he was OK with just being friends.”
Bell said up until the night of the incident the male acquaintance never exhibited any indicators that would lead her to believe that he would desire to hurt anyone, especially her young animals.
“After they returned to the home, Ms. Bell’s youngest dog started licking this gentleman’s ear,” said Eastpointe Fire Chief Ed Szymanski. “He quickly grew agitated and began threatening to kill the dog, then all of her dogs.”
When he refused to calm down, Bell asked him to leave.
“I didn’t know if he was joking or being serious, but he didn’t have a gun on him so I figured he was just joking. But I still wanted him to leave because I’m an animal lover and I didn’t like what he was saying,” Bell said.
After some persuasion, the group was able to kick him out of the house, but he lingered outside on the sidewalk in front of Bell’s home, a witness told police.
Ready to eat then call it a night, the group left Bell’s home, locking the front door behind them, and headed for a nearby Coney Island for carryout. They were only gone for about 20 minutes, but when they returned smoke was plummeting out of Bell’s home and flames could be seen through the side kitchen window.
Firefighters from Eastpointe and Roseville were on the scene within minutes, but for five of Bell’s beloved pets it was already too late.
A responding firefighter was able to pull Havoc from the flames but multiple attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
“I held Havoc for four hours after they brought him out,” Bell said. “I kept begging them to try and give him CPR again. I’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old. He was still a baby.”
Only one of Bell’s dogs survived the attack — Dodger, a 9-month-old pit she’s had for four months. Her other two dogs, including Havoc, her cat and two 6-week-old kittens perished in the flames.
A witness was able to help piece together what happened in the short time Bell was gone.
“The witness saw (a) gentleman jump the fence into Bell’s backyard, then leave again a few minutes later, just prior to the fire starting,” Szymanski said.
Bell later told police that while she had locked her front door, her back door might have been unlocked.
The witness was able to offer a vague description of the suspect. His description matched the description of Bell’s male acquaintance. As of press time, no charges had been brought against the man, but police are asking that he turn himself in for questioning. If he does not, Bell said, police told her a warrant would be issued.
If a warrant were issued, it would probably be for felony arson, but could carry with it animal cruelty charges, as well. Officials said a murder charge is reserved for a case involving human victims, while this case of potential double canicide and triple felicide would still be characterized in court as animal cruelty.
Firefighters were able to gain control of the fire before it spread beyond the kitchen, but there is sever smoke damage throughout the home. Although some of Bell’s belongings might be salvageable, she won’t be able to take inventory until after the investigation is concluded.
“We were able to get our clothes out of the house, but that’s it,” Bell said. “Almost everything is ruined anyway, but it looked like the TV might be OK. But we lost all of our blankets, furniture,, the girls’ toys, everything.”
Worse, Bell says she lost her job because of the incident.
“I was too distraught to be able to go into work. After I lost my animals last time, I had to seek counseling and take anti-anxiety pills. It took me a long time to cope with the loss of them, and now it happened all over again. I just needed a few days to come to terms with everything that happened and figure out what we were going to do.”
A year ago, when Bell was watching a friend’s pit bull, it got loose from her yard and attacked an elderly lady and the small dog she was walking.
As a result of that incident, all three of Bell’s pits at the time ended up being euthanized.
“My dogs are good dogs,” Bell had said last year. “I trained them since they were puppies. They aren’t violent. They are the opposite of violent. They are so gentle, the cats rule the roost here.”
A year later, and she’s having to deal with the painful loss of beloved pets all over again.
“I loved them all so much. I love all my pets. I’m just so distraught over this.”
Bell said she is staying with family outside the area until she can get back on her feet.
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