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St. Clair Shores

September 3, 2014

Police investigating body found in burned home

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

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Officials were investigating after a body was found in a house on Alexander Street following a pair of recent fires at the same home.

Just days after a fire forced a family from their home on Alexander Street west of Jefferson Avenue, police were at press time investigating a second fire at the same house and a dead body found in the basement that appeared to be the victim of suicide, according to officials.

“We heard the sirens,” said neighbor Valerie Corbett, who lives across the street, of the Sept. 1 fire.

She said she went outside and could see the smoke pouring out from the roof.

St. Clair Shores Fire Chief George Morehouse said the Fire Department was called around 4:45 p.m. Sept. 1 to the 22000 block of Alexander Street for a fire that had started in the kitchen and gone up into the attic.

“The family was outside on arrival. There was a cat inside (and) we did rescue the cat,” he said.

The family, Corbett said, was obviously shaken after the incident, but declined help and an offer to stay at her home. She said a husband and wife, a grandmother, two daughters and a son lived in the home, plus some family pets.

The next day, she said, the family came back and was just packing things up. She said they were a “great family” who had just relocated back to St. Clair Shores after living for a time in Battle Creek.

So when Corbett arrived home on her lunch hour Sept. 3 and saw Fire Department vehicles at the home once more, she said she thought they were just investigating the initial blaze.

But the Fire Department had been called back to the house around 10 a.m. that day for another structure fire and put the flames out once more, said St. Clair Shores Police Detective Sgt. Jay Cohoe.

The second fire had spanned two different levels and as fire officials investigated the cause of the blaze, they found the body of a deceased male in the basement.

St. Clair Shores Police, the St. Clair Shores Fire Department and Michigan State Police Fire Marshal’s Division determined that accelerants were used as an ignition source for the fires in the home. The cause of the fire was determined to be arson.

The Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on the man found in the house Sept. 4 and ruled the death a suicide via a single gunshot wound.

“It’s believed that the fire was started first and then the suicide,” Cohoe said.

St. Clair Shores Police are not releasing the identity of the man. They are not pursuing any criminal charges related to the matter at this time. Cohoe said the Sept. 1 fire was completely unrelated to the blaze Sept. 3.

Morehouse said when firefighters were at the home Sept. 1, there was nothing suspicious found in the home.

Neighbor Duke Nelson said his daughter called the Fire Department for the Sept. 3 fire, but he thought perhaps the flames just hadn’t been entirely extinguished the first time around.

“We all thought it was just a fire,” Corbett said. “It’s unbelievably shocking. This is a great neighborhood.

“It was just a beautiful family.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.