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Timing of Alexandria home fire not lost on dead toddler's family

Union Leader Correspondent

January 03. 2016 11:04PM
Tape protects the home on Sunday where a boy was fatally injured in November. The home burned down Friday night. (DAN SEUFERT)

ALEXANDRIA — The timing of a suspicious fire that heavily damaged the home where 11-month-old Shawn Sylvester Jr. was fatally injured in November is not lost on the boy’s family.

"It's distressing," one family member said of Friday's fire, "knowing the place that held all the answers is completely destroyed."

The New Year’s Day fire happened seven weeks from the day that Sylvester, known as “S.J.” to his family, suffered blunt-impact head trauma at 133 Fowler River Road. The injury occurred on Nov. 13, and the boy was taken by helicopter to a hospital, where he died two days later. He would have turned 1 on Nov. 23.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office found the cause of death to be homicide. No one has been arrested.

On Friday night, the home again became a crime scene as a fire that was termed suspicious by Alexandria Fire Chief Mark Chevalier burned much of the inside of the building. The fire was reported at 8:34 p.m., and the house was in flames when firefighters arrived, according to Chevalier.

The state Attorney General’s Office has said little about the case since disclosing Shawn Sylvester’s cause of death.

Family members said at the time of the death, the home was occupied by the boy’s mother, Dee Sylvester, and her boyfriend, Tommy Page. Dee Sylvester told the Union Leader in November that she expected that someone would be arrested. A family member last month said investigators were awaiting final autopsy reports before making an arrest.

In a separate investigation, Tommy Page, 29, has been charged with 23 counts of possession of child sexual abuse images, all felonies punishable by 7½ to 15 years in prison, for crimes that family members said occurred at the home, though a friend of Page has said Shawn Sylvester was not in the pornographic photos.

Page was being held on the charges in the Grafton County Jail when the fire occurred Friday night, authorities said. He remained there this weekend.

Investigators from the state Fire Marshal’s Office spent much of the day at the house Saturday, but no further details about the fire had been released by late Sunday.

Family members, who have been asked by state investigators not to speak publicly about the homicide, nonetheless communicated with the Union Leader, expressing confidence in state investigators but worry that the house had been burned down.

“It’s been a very painful seven weeks,” said one family member who asked not to be identified.

“The destruction of that house has only added to our family’s loss; we can only hope all evidence was discovered and removed. We don’t understand how anyone could set fire to the place where the homicide of a baby occurred.”

A family member who operates the “Justice for SJ” Facebook page, expressed faith in state investigators.

“The families continue to patiently wait for justice for S.J.,” he told the Union Leader. “We have faith in the investigators and officers and know they are still working vigilantly. Justice will prevail.”

Crime, law and justice Fires Alexandria