Updated 06/20/2012 06:07 PM
Chemung fire now being treated as murder-suicide
After 24 hours of investigation, authorities are now calling the Chemung fire that killed two people Tuesday a murder-suicide. The Chemung County Sheriff says Dennis Perry, 56, killed his estranged girlfriend, Mary Vinson. Our Lara Greenberg tells us why investigators believe the fire was intentional.
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CHEMUNG COUNTY, N.Y. -- Fire crews continue to sift through ash and evidence at 2131 McDowell Road in Chemung where Tuesday's fire turned deadly. Crews were called to the scene, which is also the site of a Hydro-Berry strawberry farm, just before 3:30 p.m. Neighbors thought they heard an explosion.
"It sounded like a car door closing. And the dogs started barking. And I looked and there was nobody out here."
But what started as a fire investigation became a death investigation. And now officials are calling it a murder-suicide.
The Chemung County Sheriff says Dennis Perry, 56, killed his estranged girlfriend, Mary Vinson, 47.
"There were two deceased individuals within the structure and then some evidence that was outside the house led us to believe that the fire was caused most likely intentional," said Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss.
Authorities also found firearms at the scene. Moss believes the fire was set after the murder.
We spoke with neighbors before authorities released this information. This neighbor wanted to remain anonymous. She described Perry as a nice man, but says she was concerned this may not have been an accident.
"I have mixed feelings. You know, without really knowing what's going on, everything goes through your mind. Bad things. And it's very scary."
Officials say there are still more questions that must be answered. The cause of death is still under investigation, pending autopsies.