Fatal Fire in Gustine

December 22, 2008 2:04:07 PM PST
North Valley authorities are investigating the deaths of two people found Wednesday night after a house fire.Detectives spent most of the day here on Olson Drive searching for evidence and removing both bodies from the home.

The Merced County Sheriff's Department has released the identities of the couple who lived in this house and believes they are the victims.

People who live on this quiet Gustine street were shocked by news of their neighbors' deaths.

Billy Wright has lived near 87 year old Joe Castro and his 84 year old wife who was known as Tina, for more than four decades.

Billy Wright, Neighbor: "They're nice people, hard-working people."

Firefighters found the bodies after a fire at this home Wednesday night. Authorities say the circumstances are suspicious, but they have not released the cause of death.

Mark Pazin, Merced Co. Sheriff: "Our major crimes unit is here trying to piece this puzzle together."

But damage from the fire has made that a much more difficult task.

Det. Dennis Stavrowsky, Gustine Police Dept. "The firemen have to go through the whole place and evidence gets destroyed. So it's just a very, much slower much longer process than you would have in a house that hadn't burned."

As authorities continue to investigate, they know this small town is anxiously waiting for answers.

Kris Anderson, Gustine Police Chief: "If this was New York, this might be the passing of a fly across the screen, but here everyone knows these folks and they know the family and the people are concerned and there's a lot of empathy."

Richard Huntley, Neighbor: "They were very special people and it's going to be a big loss to this town. Everybody loved them very much here."

Preliminary autopsy results could be available as soon as Friday.

We're told the coroner is waiting for dental records to officially confirm the victims' identities.


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