Woman found dead after fire is identified

August 31, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A woman found dead Friday in a fire in a vacant West Franklin Street apartment was looking for a place to stay the night before, former neighbors said.

Lindsay Gene Haley, 27, was identified by Hagerstown Fire Department officials Wednesday as the woman found dead at 65-67 W. Franklin St. during an early-morning fire last week.

Haley had moved out of her basement apartment at 216 S. Prospect St., according to Duane Browning, who owns the property.

Browning said Haley failed to pay rent and was to be served with eviction papers last week, but she abandoned the apartment before that happened.


"She was helped to move because she chose not to pay the rent," he said.

According to former neighbors, Haley was knocking on doors the night before the fire looking for either a place to stay or a place to keep her belongings.

The Hagerstown Police Department received a call for a disturbance from 221 S. Prospect St. at about 8 p.m., police records supervisor Debbie Palmer said.

When police arrived, they were told that Haley was intoxicated and was causing a disturbance, but that she had left, Palmer said, noting the report.

Police returned at about 9 p.m. after getting a call that Haley had come back. Police told her that they would place her under arrest if she returned again, Palmer said.

Haley's upstairs neighbor and friend, Jeff Watson, said the woman didn't work, but for about the past month had plans to either move back to her native Ohio or bring her son, who is about 9 years old, to Hagerstown to live with her.

Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary Hawbaker said Haley's mother lives in Ohio, but she has a sister who lives in the area.

Watson said, "She was caring, loving and respectful from what I know of her."

Haley would watch movies with him and cook at his apartment, and Watson would lend her money or give her food if she was having trouble making ends meet, he said.

Neighbor Michael Lichtenberg, 51, said he would give Haley rides to Wal-Mart and let her use his phone. Lichtenberg said he loaned her money, too.

Through the work of city police, city fire marshals and The Maryland Office of the Chief Medical examiner, Haley was identified by her jewelry and orthopedic plates and pins in her right ankle, a fire department release states.

Hawbaker said the department is waiting for standard toxicology tests to be completed before releasing the cause of death.

Fire under investigation

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Wednesday, but Hawbaker said there is no indication "at this point" of foul play.

"We're still trying to figure out what her activities were the night before," he said.

Hawbaker said firefighters found Haley within eight minutes of responding to the call. Dispatchers told firefighters that the call came from someone who noticed a fire from across the street, indicating that flames were likely visible.

Search crews went to the third floor of the building and the second floor, which was burning, he said.

"We couldn't search that room because it was totally on fire," Hawbaker said of the second-floor room where Haley was found.

After extinguishing those flames, Hawbaker said firefighters discovered her badly charred body.

"The apartment itself was sparsely furnished to begin with. It was a hot burning fire in there. Most of the contents were destroyed," he said. "There were things scattered about that we've grabbed."

Although the apartment was not leased to anyone and the building was supposedly vacant, Hawbaker said it was evident someone was staying there.

Hawbaker said fire marshals have not determined how long the fire was burning before a call was made for help.

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