‘Person of Interest’ in custody after fatal house fire in Battle Creek

Posted at 10:20 PM, Oct 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-02 22:21:08-04

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.  -- Before the Battle Creek Fire Department put out a house fire Tuesday evening in the city's Washington Heights neighborhood, its medical unit found a man dead inside and a woman seriously injured. Investigators say it was arson, and the Battle Creek Police Department took a person of interest into custody just before 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Crews were dispatched to the fire at 6:37 p.m at 370 N. Washington Avenue at Northside Drive, says the Battle Creek Central Dispatch Authority.

Battle Creek Fire Chief Brian Sturdivant tells FOX 17 a woman suffered a "traumatic attack" before crews found her inside the home. But he said it's up to the city's Police Department to determine if the person of interest was responsible for the attack and what the precise nature of the attack was.

The 37-year-old woman was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. Her injuries included cuts, broken bones and burns. "She was able to give officers information on a possible suspect; and with other witnesses, we identified a 47-year-old Battle Creek man as a person of interest," said a late-night written statement from Battle Creek Police. "This man turned himself in at the Battle Creek Police Department shortly before 10 p.m. We are currently interviewing him and witnesses."

No names have been released yet, pending notification of family and charges being issued. BCPD Detective Sergeant Todd Elliott says the body found in the house is "believed to be that of a 64-year-old Battle Creek man, but his identity has not been confirmed."

The fire department medical unit was driving on N. Washington Avenue when it spotted smoke coming from the house. When the medical crew stopped to investigate, "they found a 37-year-old Bellevue woman inside with injuries consistent with an assault - facial injuries," according to the police release. The medical unit put out the fire, although firefighters were called in to put out any hot spots.

Fire Chief Sturdivant says the one-alarm fire did extensive smoke and water damage to the house and basement. We're told there was smoke coming from every window and door when crews arrived.  However, the fire did not reach the roof, and the house is still standing.

The BCPD says, "At this point, a motive and the relationship of the three are under investigation...from our information at this point, we are not looking for anyone else as a person of interest or suspect, but if anyone has info they are encouraged to call BCPD or Silent Observer".

Although investigators believe it was arson, the specific means of how the fire originated has not been determined yet.