Evidence points to possible foul play in fiery death of former professor

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Evidence from a deadly Central Fresno house fire may point to foul play in the death of a former area professor. (KFSN)

Evidence from a deadly Central Fresno house fire may point to foul play in the death of a former area professor.

In the front yard of Beth Webster's house, it's hard to tell anything is wrong. But in the backyard, the signs of fire spreading through the place are obvious. Wooden boards now cover the broken windows and burned books that are the external marks of the deadly fire inside this home.

But what you can't see from the outside may prove this fire was no accident.

"Based on the circumstances of that fire as well as some of the circumstances around the victim, they called the police department for our homicide investigators to come out," said Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer of the firefighters who were the first at the home.

Fresno police are calling the death suspicious for now, but they're not saying exactly what makes them suspect anything more than a simple fire.

"Part of the evidence that we have, the only ones that would know is the deceased victim and the suspect," Dyer said. "So we want to keep that close to our vest."

Family members and neighbors told us they believe Beth Webster is the woman who died, although coroners haven't officially identified her because the body was burned.

The 52-year-old was an adjunct English professor at Fresno State and Fresno City College years ago, but neighbors say in recent years, she mainly stayed home and wrote.

She lived alone in the house and let weeds overtake her yard. Neighbors think the house might've looked abandoned and attractive to squatters. But at this point, police say there's no evidence of a squatter invading the home.

"We'll be waiting for the autopsy that will help us to understand the cause and manner of death which will assist us to determine whether this is at the hands of another or not," Dyer said.

Coroners will conduct the autopsy Wednesday, and we should know a lot more after that.

Webster's family was too distraught to talk about her, but Action News found some very positive online reviews of her work as a professor.

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newssuspicious deathfire deathhouse firefresnoFresno - Central
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