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Official: Alexandria fire may not be linked to toddler's death

Union Leader Correspondent

January 05. 2016 12:36AM
A home at 133 Fowler River Road in Alexandria was heavily damaged by fire Friday night. (DAN SEUFERT)

ALEXANDRIA — Though local police and firefighters said a fire at a Fowler River Road house Friday night was suspicious and the home had become “a crime scene,” the suspicious nature of the fire may not have been related to the fact that a toddler was fatally injured in the house in November.

So says Eric Berube, of the state Fire Marshal’s Office, who is investigating the case. The case of the fire at 133 Fowler River Road, the home where 11-month-old Shawn Sylvester Jr. was fatally injured on Nov. 13, is now being handled by the state, though Berube would not say why.

“We aren’t releasing any information yet about that case,” Berube said.

The town’s fire chief, Mark Chevalier, and police officials at the scene told the Union Leader Friday night that the fire was suspicious in nature. Chevalier also cleared the immediate scene of the fire from public view, saying the home fire had become a crime scene. Photos taken by a firefighter were not released to the Union Leader at the order of the Fire Marshal’s Office, according to Berube.

“We normally ask firefighters to keep (photos) of a fire like that for us, because we have to determine without prejudice if the fire was set by someone before we release any information about it,” Berube said. “We’re still in the very early stages of the investigation, so we need all of the information we can get about it to make our determinations.”

The home had become a crime scene after the Nov. 13 incident, in which Sylvester suffered blunt-impact head trauma. After the boy died on Nov. 15, his death was ruled a homicide by the state’s Attorney General.

But Chevalier said on Monday that his use of the term “suspicious” was not based on previous events at the house. “It was because the house was vacant at the time of the fire, and that seemed suspicious,” he said. “But it’s in the hands of the fire marshal now.”

The Fire Marshal’s Office is called to investigate fires of various causes, including accidental, natural, incendiary and undetermined causes, Berube said. Though it’s normal for local fire departments to use terms like “suspicious” to describe fires, “suspicious isn’t a term we would even use,” he said.

Nor would state investigators refer to a fire scene as “a crime scene,” he said, “until we know if a crime was committed.”

“We won’t say much about fire investigations until we know for sure,” he said. “Otherwise, people will draw conclusions that may not be accurate.”

Meanwhile, the state Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating the homicide case, had no comment on the fire, Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley said. No arrests have been made in the homicide case.

Public Safety Alexandria

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