A Dec. 22 Park Street fire that killed 39-year-old Debra Morris was deliberately set and Morris’ death is a homicide, Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira announced Wednesday afternoon at a news conference.
Sira declared the landlord, Jeffrey E. Alnutt, who was residing in the downstairs apartment that night, a person of interest. She said the fire started in that apartment and was incendiary in nature. She declined to elaborate on what caused the fire and she urged anyone with information about the fire to contact police or her office.
She said state and local investigators are reopening probes into two prior fires at homes owned in the area by Alnutt. She said Alnutt has refused to cooperate with police in the investigation.
Alnutt’s attorney, Robert Abdella of Gloversville, said his client wants to talk to police but after it became apparent from questioning that police were treating him as a suspect, he [Abdella] directed him to remain silent.
Fire officials said Morris, who shared the upstairs bedroom with her boyfriend, Gary Romaine Jr., initially escaped the blaze but then returned to rescue a cat. Her body was found near a bathroom, a distance from the stairs leading outside.
Sira noted Wednesday the cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation.
The fire started shortly before midnight Dec. 21. When firefighters arrived, the house was fully involved Sira said, and the door to the first floor apartment was locked. She said Alnutt sometimes lived there with his girlfriend and tenant, Amber Slaybaugh. She said Alnutt was there the night of the fire.
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