Deadly House Fire Arouses Suspicion

December 22, 2008 2:04:06 PM PST
Gustine authorities are searching for clues at the scene of a suspicious house fire where they found two bodies last night.Investigators were at the burned home on Olson Drive since four o'clock Thursday morning.

Authorities said the damage from the fire is slowing their progress.

News of the fatal fire at this Gustine home spread quickly through the small town.

Merced County resident Kathy Kaupp said, "When something like this happens, it hits everybody."

Investigators say they found two bodies in the room hidden behind this white tarp.

Det. Dennis Stavrowsky: "There was cause to think that there may be some suspicious circumstance involved, I'm not going to go into exactly what that is at this point in time."

Detectives from the Merced County Sheriff's office and the Gustine Police Department spent the morning searching for evidence and processing the scene, but they say damage from the fire has made it a difficult process.

Det. Stavrowsky: "The firemen have to go through the whole place an 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."

Authorities have not yet confirmed the identities of the two victims, but neighbors say the home belongs to an elderly couple who were well known and loved by the community.

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."

Neighbors also tell us the woman who lived in the home has some medical problems and had been bed-ridden recently.

But authorities say it's still too early to tell whether the victims were alive when the fire started.

Preliminary autopsy results could be available as soon as tomorrow.