Neighbor Mark Simons II captured this scene of the flames engulfing the house where a veteran's body was discovered last year. (Submitted photo)
Wainwright, Ohio - Authorities are unable to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed the Wainwright house where the decomposing body of a 71-year-old military veteran was discovered last year.
Just before 6 p.m. on Friday, the Warwick Township and New Philadelphia Fire Departments responded to 4210 Fourth St. SE after a next-door neighbor called to report that the vacant house had caught on fire.
Mark Simons II lives next door to the house with his mother, who was not home at the time of the fire. He was ordered to evacuate as additional units from Uhrichsville and Arrowhead Joint Fire District were called in to help extinguish the blaze that was quickly engulfing the neighboring house.
“I ended up going into my house to get my dogs out because I was worried about them. I tried to get my cats out but the police knocked on the door saying I need to get out,” he said.
Simons and his pets were unharmed and his home was not damaged. The other house ultimately burned to its foundation, and its charred remnants continued to smolder Saturday morning.
Warwick Township Assistant Fire Chief Eric Glazer said the fire is believed to have originated on the second-floor of the vacant, two-story structure, but due to the extent of the damage, a specific cause cannot be determined.
The house had previously been condemned and is the same one where the decomposed body of Robert Harris was discovered last March.
Harris, a 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran, hadn’t been seen for several months and was said to have been staying at the residence with husband and wife Brian D. and Stacy L. Sorohan and their daughter Briann D. Sorohan.
Deputies from the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office responded to the residence to conduct a welfare check and discovered Harris’ body in the living room. Harris was believed to have been dead for several months, and investigators learned that the family had been using his Social Security benefits.
Brian and Stacy Sorohan were each charged with gross abuse of a corpse and two counts of theft, both fifth-degree felonies, and failing to report knowledge of a death, a fourth-degree felony. Both pleaded no contest to the charges and were sentenced to six months in the Tuscarawas County Jail and two years of probation and ordered to pay restitution to the VA Debt Management Center and Social Security Administration. Their daughter, Briann D. Sorohan, pleaded no contest to one count of failure to report knowledge of a death and was sentenced to six months of probation.
Simons had been taking care of the house on behalf of the owner. He said the house had been vacant for about a year and a half and didn’t have any utilities connected except for electric.
STACEY CARMANY, TUSCO TV