July 28, 2014

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Sheffield Lake house fire ruled arson

This home at 4780 Pinewood Drive in Sheffield Lake was damaged by a fire early Saturday morning. Janet Earnhart was critically injured in the blaze that killed 7 pets. EVAN GOODENOW/CHRONICLE

Officials have ruled a fire that occurred Jan. 11 at 4780 Pinewood Drive in Sheffield Lake an arson. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

SHEFFIELD LAKE — The cause of a fire that burned through a Sheffield Lake house and severely injured a woman was ruled arson, police said.

The fire started about 5:45 a.m. Jan. 11 at 4780 Pinewood Drive and sent Janet Earnhardt, 69, to the hospital for burns, smoke inhalation and a broken leg. Earnhardt was listed in fair condition at MetroHealth Medical Center on Wednesday.

Sheffield Lake Police Chief Tony Campo said police haven’t made any arrests yet.

“We’re looking at several aspects and theories — who was where that evening,” Campo said.

In late January, police began searching texts and phone calls from a man who they believe was in the garage at the time of the fire and whom they say lied to police about what he was doing that morning.

According to an affidavit signed Jan. 21 in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, the man — a resident of the home — attempted suicide four years ago when he tried to light himself on fire after a relationship ended.

The man told authorities after the January fire that he tried to help those in the house escape.

But some of those who fled from the fire told police that the man was in the garage at the time and never helped them, according to the affidavit.

Police believe the man texted his ex-girlfriend a few hours before the January fire, mentioned suicide and said he couldn’t live without her, according to the affidavit.

Campo said police have worked with the Ohio Fire Marshal’s office. State Fire Marshal Michael Duchesne said the case has been turned over to Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will.

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