By BRIAN BOHNERT
Three people were arrested on arson and murder charges Monday after an early morning house fire killed two people and injured another person in the 600 block of South Poplar Street.
The bodies of a man and a woman were found inside the structure at 614 S. Poplar St. Police are not releasing the names of any of the victims until positive identification can be made, according to Fostoria Police Chief Keith Loreno.
Shey L. Weiker, 31, and Charles V. Schaeffer, 44, both of 151 Taft Blvd., and Timothy D. Hall, 20, 126 Findlay St., are each facing multiple felony charges stemming from the blaze that occurred shortly before 3 a.m. Monday, Fostoria police reported.
Loreno said officers executed a search warrant Monday afternoon at 151 Taft Blvd., taking all three suspects into custody and collecting various items as evidence.
“During the search, there was contraband not specifically associated to the fire that was seized, and it will be dealt with appropriately,” Loreno said. “The turnaround for lab results is fairly rapid, about seven to 10 days.”
All evidence collected during the investigation is to be tested both by police and at the State Fire Marshal’s Arson Crime Lab in Columbus.
Police said Weiker is charged with four counts of aggravated arson, two counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted aggravated murder and one count of tampering with evidence.
Schaeffer is charged with four counts of complicity to commit aggravated arson, two counts of complicity to commit aggravated murder and one count of complicity to commit attempted aggravated murder, police said.
Police said Hall faces four counts of complicity to commit aggravated arson, two counts of complicity to commit aggravated murder, one count of complicity to commit attempted aggravated murder and one count of complicity to tampering with evidence.
Fostoria firefighters responded to the house fire at the South Poplar Street residence at about 3 a.m. Monday. According to Interim Fire Chief Warren Digby, the initial call came in via 911 at 3:05 a.m. advising of people trapped inside the home.
During the rescue efforts, one firefighter suffered minor injuries after falling through collapsing stairs. He was able to return to duty, Loreno said.
The dead were transported by the Seneca County coroner to the Lucas County Coroner’s Office. Loreno said autopsies are scheduled for today.
Another woman survived the blaze and is being treated in the burn unit at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo. She was initially transported to ProMedica Fostoria Community Hospital and then taken by air ambulance to Toledo.
Loreno said the survivor was unable to communicate with authorities Monday.
Police are not releasing the names of the fire victims until positive identification can be made of all three victims, he said.
“We certainly need a positive identification of those who are deceased, especially since one of them is not a regular resident there,” he said. “We’re currently trying to determine the relationship between these women. We have to positively identify who they are, determine why they were there, and gather more information on that.”
According to Seneca County Auditor’s Office, the Poplar Street house is owned by Daniel Marker Jr. His brother, Shane, said Daniel, 48, died in the fire. Shane, whose ex-wife is Weiker, also said six small dogs perished in the blaze.
Loreno said officers are still investigating a possible motive for the homicides and plan to determine the relationship between the victims and the alleged offenders.
“We’re certainly not done today,” he said Monday night. “Obviously, there’s still a lot of background we have to go through and review before we can complete this investigation.”
Upon arriving on scene, firefighters discovered heavy smoke and flames coming from the front of the structure. After an in-depth investigation, Loreno said officials determined the fire originated at the front of the house and spread throughout. He was unable to provide any details as to the type of accelerant used to ignite the blaze, which he said was intentionally set.
Firefighters brought the burning bungalow under control at approximately 4:52 a.m. and extinguished it shortly thereafter. The home was a total loss, having extensive fire and smoke damage, officials said.
Loreno said he did not yet know if smoke detectors were present and functioning in the home. He also said one or more of the victims had “hearing issues,” but he was unaware of the extent.
A witness who was at the scene Monday morning said Fostoria Police Officer Trey Farabee arrived before firefighters and found the surviving female in the backyard. The witness said the back door of the home was nailed shut and the survivor had to escape through a window. Loreno declined to comment, citing the open investigation.
“I have got to commend the staff,” Loreno said of his officers who apprehended the suspects less than 12 hours after the fire. “After coming from a homicide last week to another terrible tragedy today, how well they worked together to bring this to a quick closure should show how much confidence the community should have in their police division.”
Monday evening, the suspects were transported by Fostoria police to the Seneca County Jail in Tiffin.
Fostoria Police Department and Fostoria Fire Division were assisted by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Seneca County Prosecutor’s Office, Tiffin Fire, and Bascom and New Riegel Emergency Medical Service.
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