Three people were found dead inside a townhome in Huber Heights, Ohio, Wednesday afternoon in what appeared to be an unreported kitchen fire that burned itself out. The victims may have been dead in the apartment for close to two weeks, according to a 911 caller.
A foul odor emanating from the home led investigators to the location around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday where they discovered the bodies of three people who appeared to have died in the fire, Huber Heights Fire Chief Mark Ashworth said.
“Their cars haven’t moved in about three weeks,” a woman who lives nearby reported to 911 dispatchers Wednesday afternoon. “There’s a ton of flies on the inside of their windows. We haven’t seen anybody come or go.
“There’s an awful smell coming from it ... the smell is getting stronger,” she said.
Two women came forward to identify the bodies as family members.
“I’m hurt,” said Murless Jones, who said her daughter and grandson were two of the victims. “That was my baby. That’s my middle child. I’m very hurt.”
Jones identified the family of three who lived in the apartment as her daughter, 30-year-old Antronette I’Tavion Taylor, her 2-year-old grandson Michael Edward Davidson Jr. and Michael E. Davidson Sr., who is the child’s father and Taylor’s boyfriend.
However, the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office has not released any names. Investigators said further testing is needed to identify the remains due to the decomposition of the bodies.
Jean Harris said she was watching News Center 7 when she saw her niece’s apartment on her screen and learned that three bodies had been removed following a fire that happened up to two weeks earlier.
“I almost lost my mind,” Harris said. “I didn’t know what to think.”
She and Jones said it’s been between a week to 10 days since they’ve heard from Taylor, who was studying to be a teacher at Sinclair Community College in Dayton.
“I can’t imagine how did this happen,” said Jones, who said she had been calling and texting her daughter. “I should have went over there ... I don’t know.”
Outside the two-story unit, window blinds are visibly melted. That and reports from the 911 caller that no one had been seen coming and going lately, their cars had not moved and there was a strong odor with flies swarming the inside windows leaves Harris and Jones to question why no one checked on them.
“You have neighbors that just don’t care? I don’t know. If I seen anybody’s shade melted like that I would have been banging on that door, or knocking to see if somebody came to the door. I would have noticed that something doesn’t seem right,” Jones said.
Ashworth said the coroner’s investigation will hopefully determine the timing of the fire and subsequent deaths.
“This is a rather unusual call for us,” he said. “At no point in time was the fire department notified that there was an active fire here, and we don’t know how long these individuals have been in the house.”
Ashworth said the trio showed signs of heat and smoke exposure, but not direct contact with flames.
“There is no indication of foul play,” Keith Knisley, a Huber Heights fire battalion chief, said.
Investigators are focusing on the stove as a possible source of the fire, the chief said.
It appeared the fire burned itself out. In certain instances, Ashworth said, “a fire will produce enough smoke to choke the oxygen out and extinguish itself.”
Two smoke detectors — one hardwired, one battery-operated — were found inside the residence. Both sustained significant damage and it is not clear whether they sounded, and if they did, when and whether any neighbors heard.
Harris said she remembers Taylor complaining that the smoke alarms didn’t work. “She said they never would come and fix the smoke detectors,” Harris said.
Ashworth said there are five units in each row of town homes, and other residents have not been displaced by the fire.