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Woman's death in burned home probed as homicide

September 01, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The death of a woman found Wednesday in a smoke-filled bedroom of a mobile home in Berkeley County is being investigated by West Virginia State Police as a homicide, Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Thursday.

Jeannette K. Dawson, 41, of 345 Blair St. in the Berkeley Village subdivision, was identified as the deceased by state police.

"Her cause of death does not appear to be natural or related to the fire," Games-Neely said.

An autopsy was being completed in Charleston, W.Va., at the chief medical examiner's office, Games-Neely said.

State police responded to the home off Berkeley Station Road, north of Martinsburg, about 5:43 p.m. for a report of a suspicious death, according to a news release from the agency's Martinsburg detachment.

Members of Bedington Volunteer Fire Department responded minutes later and verified the fire was extinguished and helped secure the scene, Chief Scott Schill said. Volunteers with Hedgesville's rescue squad also responded.

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Schill and assistant state Fire Marshal Ed Robinson referred questions about any fire damage to the State Police. Games-Neely said "heavy smoke" was in the bedroom when officials arrived.

Berkeley County Coroner David Brining confirmed that he certified Dawson's death. He also referred questions to the State Police.

Members of the state police crime scene team were at the home well into the afternoon Thursday.

The mobile home where Dawson was living is secluded by tall shrubs and trees at the end of Blair Street off Hanshew Lane. Horses could be seen in a barn next to the home. Gated areas for the animals were behind the home.

Neighbor Ron Hazlett, of 270 Blair St., said Thursday he didn't know Dawson that well, but often saw she and her husband riding their horses past his home. Dawson would often wave as the horses "pranced by," he said. The couple also took their horses to shows on weekends, he said.

"I know it has to be devastating for him and the rest of the family," Hazlett said.

"From what I saw, she was a lover of life," Hazlett said.

A resident of the subdivision for 17 years, Hazlett said the community always has been relatively quiet, except for the occasional teenager who caused a stir.

"It's always been a peaceful neighborhood," Hazlett said.

"Everybody's in the dark" about this, he added.

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