Manhattan Avenue fire leaves one woman dead, man she lived with "a person of interest"

Jan 11, 2018

Following an early morning house fire on Manhattan Avenue in the City of Buffalo, one woman is dead, her daughter burned, and the man she lived with – a "person of interest” – is in critical condition.

At approximately 3:30 a.m., Buffalo police and the firefighters responded to a call of a fire in an upstairs bedroom at 57 Manhattan Avenue in the city’s Kensington neighborhood. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the flames.

“At which point it was determined that there was a deceased female victim, approximately 27 years of age, located in the room,” said Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo. “Buffalo Police, based on an investigation, were able to come across another victim of the fire in a back yard of an adjoining street.”

That victim, a 29 year old male, is in critical condition at the Erie County Medical Center burn unit and may be in a medically induced coma. He is a “person of interest” in the joint homicide and fire investigation into the blaze and the woman’s death.

Buffalo Fire Investigation Commander James Otwell said the cause of the fire was incendiary.

“We were able to rule out accidental by different types of flammable accelerants that were found at the scene,” said Otwell.

Fire causes fall into one of four categories: accidental, natural, incendiary, or undetermined. Whether or not the fire is deemed arson is up to law enforcement to determine.

“Lab samples were taken and, in addition, the county K-9 team came in and made positive hits,” said Otwell. “That will be evidence that will be part of our overall crime investigation and analysis that will lead up to further parts of our investigation.”

A number of exotic pets, including a large snake, a turtle, and ferrets were also discovered in the house. Domestic pets including dogs and cats were also present. One dog was revived by firefighters using CPR.

The deceased woman’s seven year old daughter suffered smoke inhalation and burns on her feet. She was treated at Oishei Children’s Hospital and released to her father. Four other adults were home at the time of the incident. The American Red Cross reports they are assisting six people related to the fire.

Police are still working on notifying the families of both the deceased and the second victim. Neither of their names have been officially released.

More details are expected to be released following autopsy results of the female victim. Investigators are waiting for the condition of the male victim to improve before they question him. Rinaldo expects it will be days before all the facts of the investigation are gathered.

Follow WBFO's Avery Schneider on Twitter at @SAvery131.