Pinellas Park, Florida -- Shortly after 6:00am, the Pinellas Park Fire Department responded to a structure fire at 7600 71st Avenue. A short time later, the fire department alerted the fire department that they had discovered a dead body inside of this single-family residence.
Pinellas Park Police officers responded to the scene. Fire crews informed them that the fire was extinguished, and that they would be standing by in the event they were needed.
Officers learned that two men who knew the victim were the first on scene and entered the home before the fire department arrived. They entered the home and attempted to put out the fire. When their efforts failed, one man tried to remove the woman from the home. He was overcome by smoke and had to stop to save himself.
He was not injured.
Officers inspected the damage to the home and noted there was partial roof collapse on the east side of the home. Inside the living room area of the residence was the body of a female with obvious trauma. A decision was made to call out detectives to continue the investigation.
Detectives entered the residence and observed evidence that led them to believe that the female was the victim of a violent act before her death. The determination was made at that time to treat the fire as a crime scene and that the death of the woman would be investigated as a homicide.
Detectives and crime scene personnel started to collect evidence at the crime scene. The state fire marshal and Pinellas Park fire inspector assisted in the investigation. The medical examiner was also called to the scene to aid in the investigation.
When the detectives and medical examiner entered the residence, they set out to conduct a physical examination of the woman. Detectives were able to establish that the trauma to the woman was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
It is now believed that the fire was intentionally set by the woman shortly before she took her own life.
The woman did own several cats and they were not in the house at the time of the fire. It is believed that the woman placed the cats in a shelter. One cat was left on the doorstep of a neighbor with a note left nearby. Another note was found inside of the deceased vehicle. Neither note offered any insight as to why the fire was set.
An autopsy will be required to determine the actual cause of death. There is no reason for investigators to believe this was anything more than a suicide.
At this time, the case remains open to determine the cause of death.
The identity of the woman is being withheld pending the notification of her next of kin.
She was 61 years old.
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