Firefighters find body inside Graham home after fire

Staff writersJuly 24, 2013 

Neighbors in the 19300 block of 89th Avenue East called 911 just before 7 a.m. Wednesday to report smoke coming from the home. As firefighters were battling the fire, they found a body inside the home.

JANET JENSEN — Staff photographer

A body was found inside a Graham house Wednesday morning after firefighters extinguished a small blaze inside the home.

Pierce County sheriff’s detectives are investigating the death as a homicide because the fire in the 19300 block of 89th Avenue East was deemed suspicious.

“There are some suspicious circumstances leading up to the fire and some inconsistencies we’re working through on scene,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

The Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet identified the body or gender of the deceased and sheriff’s investigators have not reached the 58-year-old man who lived at the house, Troyer said.

“We don’t know if it’s him or someone different,” Troyer said. “We can’t identify him because of the fire. We have reports of people (visitors) coming and going from the residence over time.”

The body was discovered after neighbors called 911 just before 7 a.m. to report smoke coming from the home.

Crews quickly extinguished the fire, which started inside the house. The body was found after firefighters conducted a sweep of the home.

Deputies have contacted the home’s resident before when neighbors called. Troyer said.

“He’s frightened neighbors before with his rants,” Troyer said. “He has some mental health issues.”

The house was one of the first built in the Winterwood subdivision, part of a vast development of two-story homes constructed over the past four years between Graham and Fredrickson.

Neighbors said behavior of the resident, who lived alone in the house, had grown increasingly odd and threatening over the past several months.

They said the man made grandiose claims about his past, including service in the CIA. He shot neighborhood dogs with a BB-gun, displayed knives in the upper windows and often shrank back into the shadows if spotted outside, according to neighbors.

“I hadn’t seen anybody there for a long time,” said Susan Laxson, who lives across the street and few houses away. “We thought the house was vacant because we never saw anybody there.

“For awhile the grass was about this high,” she said, pointing at her knees.

Milton Cowart, who lives directly across the street, said he had a friendly speaking relationship with the man when they both moved into the subdivision in early 2010.

That changed, he said, as the man’s behavior grew more paranoid and threatening.

“Something in him snapped,” Cowart said. “Everybody had come to the conclusion that sooner or later he was going to do something crazy. It’s sad, is what it is.”

Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.

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