A man found dead inside a South Side house after a fire Saturday has been identified as Arnold Eugene Miller.
The remains of Miller, 46, of East Liberty in Pittsburgh, were found in a second-floor apartment at 309 Phillips St. Police believe he was shot to death hours before the fire broke out.
He had been shot three times — once in head and twice in the abdomen, according to New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem.
New Castle police earlier this week had ruled the man’s death a homicide, but his identity or details of how he died were not released until yesterday afternoon.
Lawrence County Coroner Russell S. Noga said Miller was positively identified just yesterday, through dental records and by a piece of jewelry that someone who knows him identified.
Also, his car had been parked across from the house, and his cell phone was in another room of the apartment that did not sustain fire damage, Noga said, adding, “No one had seen or heard from him since last Friday.”
Noga said the police had previously talked to relatives who had called Miller on his cell phone.
Relatives told investigators that Miller was a veteran. Noga managed to secure Miller’s 2007 dental records, the most recent, from the Butler VA Medical Center. Although the records were not completely comprehensive, there were certain characteristics that enabled a positive identification, he said.
Salem said a report from an autopsy performed Saturday by forensic pathologist Dr. James Smith showed that Miller died from the gunshot wounds.
The autopsy was performed at Heritage Valley Health System in Beaver County, where Smith is on staff.
“We think he was shot and somebody went back and set the fire hours later,” Salem said.
Noga said Miller is believed to have died around 2:30 p.m. Feb. 24, based on information that someone said they saw him lying in the living room and people downstairs reported hearing gunshots around that time.
MORE FIRE DETAILS
The fire broke out around 5 a.m. the next day in the living room of a second-floor apartment at 309 Phillips St. where Miller had been staying.
Noga said Miller was not the official tenant of the apartment.
According to a New Castle Fire Department report, firefighters were told when the fire started that someone was possibly trapped inside. They saw fire coming from the window on the front, eastern corner of the house.
A police officer had made it up the stairwell to the landing but could not go inside or see anyone in the home, the report said.
Two firefighters entered the house from an outside stairwell, and they put out the fire and confined it to the living room.
Miller was found lying on his back in the living room and had suffered heavy burns, the report said.
New Castle assistant fire chief Joe Bongivengo said police and fire investigators do not know yet how the fire started, but “it’s definitely suspicious.”
NO SUSPECTS YET
According to Salem, police have no suspects in the man’s shooting death or the fire, and detectives are continuing to interview people.
Salem said that no shell casings were found at the scene, and police are trying to determine the caliber and type of gun used.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the police department at (724) 656-3586.
Bongivengo said there was a discrepancy about who was actually living in the upstairs apartment, because a woman who supposedly was living had contacted the owner and wanted to move to Pittsburgh.
The house is owned James J. Fagen Jr. of New Castle, according to county assessment records.
The first-floor apartment was occupied by Charmain and Dale Schramm, who were at home when the fire started.
The American Red Cross assisted with relocating them temporarily.
According to a fire department report, police had been summoned to the same house Friday regarding an unconscious male who was bleeding from his head due to a possible assault.
The fire department secured and stood by the house and when police arrived, there was no injured person there, the fire report said. Police are investigating a connection to that call.