Smoke and tragedy
|By Neal McNamara|
Police see no connection yet between two separate possibly fire related incidents that caused the death of five Lansing residents
The siding on the home on Barnes Avenue where William Beckett and Monica Moreno lived is slightly melted, and on a recent day, clothes were piled up near the front stoop. It was at this house Aug. 8 that the couple was killed. The home is a jarring sight in this neighborhood, just across the street from the expanse of Quentin Park and just one block east of the Lansing Country Club.
Lansing Police have ruled the deaths homicide but will not release any other information surrounding the case, including the cause of death and whether the couple was killed as the result of a fire.
Some neighbors have said that they saw someone throw an object into the home before the fire. However, neighbors now do not want to talk about the incident. One said that local residents would remain “tight lipped” about the incident until more information is released by police.
Jones wondered aloud whether the incidents at homes might have been connected. But Lansing Police said they have not yet found a connection and don’t think they will.
The investigations “could take different direction, and sometimes they do come together,” Lansing Police Lt. Noel Garcia said. “But at this time it doesn’t appear that they are related.”
Lansing Fire Marshal Phil Sabon said that neither case is being called arson — a charge that can only be made if the county prosecutor rules it as such. Until then, the Fire Department investigates the incidents as “intentionally set” fires.
In 2008, there were 52 intentionally set fires and in 2007 there were 40. Of those fires, in 2009 seven took place in residences, in 2008 19 and in 2007 12. Sabon did not know how many of these fires that took place in a residences, if any, were ruled arson.
Sabon would not say whether any of the five deaths so far this year included Torres and her two children or Moreno and Beckett. However, he did say that the five deaths so far this year include some people killed in other fires.
At least one fire in the city has been declared arson. A home at 1520 Vermont Ave., owned by Melinda and Leonirdes Ruiz, caught fire twice in one week in May — the first fire was ruled accidental, but the second has been ruled arson and is being investigated.
According to court records, Moreno was involved in an incident in 2005 where she was convicted of uttering and publishing — or forgery — in Gratiot County. On two separate occasions, Moreno had forged a check from a Corrine Komperda, a relative. Moreno was given probation for two years for the crime. Komperda could not be reached for comment.
Garcia would not comment on that event, but said that investigators are looking at every angle related to the case. Moreno’s parents, who live in Charlotte, declined an interview request regarding their daughter.