July 25, 2014

Elyria
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Man found dead in ‘suspicious’ apartment fire

This screengrab from raw video shows the fire that gutted an East River Street apartment Monday night. COURTESY VERNON FRYE

This screengrab from raw video shows the fire that gutted an East River Street apartment Monday night. COURTESY VERNON FRYE

ELYRIA — Vernon Frye woke up Monday evening to the sounds of an argument at a neighbor’s apartment complex, which quickly became the scene of a possible explosion, a fire and the death of a 62-year-old man.

A man's body was found after a fire at 341 E. River St., Apt. 3, Elyria. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

A man’s body was found after a fire at 341 E. River St., Apartment 3, Elyria. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Around 11 p.m. Monday, a fire broke out at a four-unit apartment complex at 341 East River St. Elyria Fire Department arrived shortly after 11 p.m. and contained the fire to Apartment 3 on the second floor of the quadplex, according to Assistant Fire Chief Bob Dempsey.

After 20 minutes — the time it took to get the fire under control — firefighters found the body of the man in the apartment’s bathroom.

Police have not yet released the man’s name. They, along with the Fire Department and the Lorain County Coroner’s office, are investigating the death, which they have labeled “suspicious,” Elyria police Capt. Chris Costantino said.

Frye, who lives behind the quadplex and took a video of the fire, said he was awakened by his daughter when she heard loud arguing and a possible fight at the apartment building. Soon after the arguing, Frye said he heard what sounded like an explosion at the building, followed by faint yelling.

As people began to filter from the back of the complex, Frye watched a four-door car quickly drive from the scene.

“It really took off,” Frye said, adding that because it was night, he was unable to see the car in more detail.

Though this is the first time the apartment complex has caught on fire, neighbors say the quadplex is often the site of strange activity.

An Elyria firefighter shovels debris from the window of an apartment Tuesday following a fire Monday night.

An Elyria firefighter shovels debris from the window of an apartment Tuesday following a fire Monday night.

“There’s a lot of verbal arguments. It’s definitely not a quiet quadplex,” Frye said, adding that he didn’t know any of the residents of the building, including the 62-year-old man who died.

Neighbor John Rhodes said that along with the constant noise, there has been a lot of activity around the building and that for years visitors have frequented the quadplex at all hours.

However, unlike Frye, Rhodes said he remembers the 62-year-old man from around the neighborhood. He said the man walked his dog and seemed to spend a lot of time alone.

“He kept to himself,” Rhodes said.

The investigation is ongoing and Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans said he planned to conduct an autopsy Tuesday evening to determine the man’s cause of death.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.