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Polk County Enterprise - Local News

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Firefighters find body in burning motel room



LIVINGSTON — Investigators expect to confirm the identity soon of a man found dead in a burned-out room at the Royal Inn motel at 1200 N. Washington at about 10 p.m. Sunday night. The fire was reported at 9:26 p.m. Sunday by someone calling from the Pizza Hut restaurant across the street, Livingston Fire Department records show. Although flames were quite visible above the roof of the building, the motel’s fire alarm was never activated. “We had the fire knocked down and under control within eight to 10 minutes of our arrival,” said LVFD Chief Corky Cochran. “There was fire in the roof between the concrete ceiling of the room and the tar and shingle overlay. (Firefighters) had to chop some of the roof material out to get into some of the hot spots.” “It was we got the fire knocked down and we were working on hot spots when we found the body,” Cochran said. “We went door to door upstairs and downstairs to make sure none of the other rooms were burning or was sheltering anyone else that needed assistance.” LVFD dispatched 24 firefighters and four firetrucks to the scene. Since initial reports did not isolate which particular building in the complex was burning, Cochran said he also alerted Onalaska and Scenic Loop fire departments to respond. Scenic Loop sent six firefighters, an engine and a tanker. Onalaska brought seven men, an engine and a tanker. The guest rooms in the hotel are built of concrete floor, ceiling and walls, Cochran said. “That prevented the fire from spreading more than it did,” Cochran said. “We weren’t sure of the full construction of the office area and what was formerly the restaurant portion of the complex, so we wanted to be sure we had plenty of help if the fire spread quickly.” Lt. Matt Parrish of Livingston Police Department said the area is being treated as a crime scene until the cause and origin of the fire and the cause of the victim’s death are determined. Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Steven McEntyre performed the inquest and ordered the body to be taken to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s office. Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s office arrived Monday to assist Livingston Fire Marshal Josh Mohler with the fire investigation. Parrish added that the hotel will remain closed as utilities have been turned off until building code and safety concerns are addressed. Parrish said investigators completed their interviews with witnesses on Monday. “We are working this as a homicide an arson, but it could still be an accidental death,” Parrish said. He said pathologists will attempt to identify the victim using dental records — a process which can be completed much faster than DNA testing. “The autopsy results will determine the direction of the investigation. As the investigation progresses, updates will be posted to the Enterprise’s Facebook page.


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