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Identity of burn victim unknown, but no foul play suspected

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Initial autopsy results indicate the adult found dead inside a burned-out house was not murdered, Clayton County Police said Friday.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation's medical examiners reported finding soot in the lungs of the deceased, indicating the person was alive and breathing at the time of the Feb. 3 fire, and probably died from smoke inhalation, said Capt. Greg Dickens, police department spokesman.

Detectives do not suspect "foul play," and are treating the case as a "death investigation."

Dickens said the detectives suspect the dead "John Doe" is actually an adult woman, who was reported missing by the family who owns the vacant, 7451 Mockingbird Trail house, but the body has not been positively identified.

According to police reports, the body was discovered on Thursday, four days after a fire totally destroyed the Riverdale-area residence. The body was discovered at about 11:30 a.m., as insurance investigators, working for Allstate Insurance Company, dug through the burned debris in an attempt to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

Owners told investigators that they had been at the home the day before the fire, that all the utilities were disconnected and the place was vacant. When police arrived, responding to a 911 call after 6 a.m., that Sunday, "the entire house was engulfed in flames," according to a police report.

Clayton County firefighters were told the house was vacant, and did not find anyone while attempting to put out the blaze.

The fire department did not determine a cause, initially, but suspicions now rest with the deceased, who may have been in the house and started a fire to stay warm.

The GBI's initial autopsy report did not give a cause of death and the investigation is ongoing. Detectives are waiting for a toxin screen, and for DNA testing to determine the identity of the dead body.