St. Pete house fire victims were murdered - FOX 13 News

St. Pete house fire victims were murdered

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Byt the time St. Pete Fire Rescue arrived at the scene the house was engulfed in flames. Byt the time St. Pete Fire Rescue arrived at the scene the house was engulfed in flames.
ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The signs in the neighborhood were subtle at first.

Laura Bechtel lives a few houses away from where a house fire broke out Sunday afternoon.

"I smelled smoke," she said. "I was in my office working on the computer."

Very soon others started seeing smoke emitting from a home on 4th Avenue N in St. Petersburg.

By the time emergency service personnel arrived on scene, flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the single-story residence.

"We had a heavy fire in the rear, heavy smoke showing too," explained Lt. Joel Granata with St. Pete Fire Rescue.

Once fire crews were inside, they found the bodies of two men who, at first, were thought to be fire victims.

Investigators say at this point they aren't sure how the fire got started. The official cause is still under investigation but something doesn't seem right.

One thing is certain. The two victims died as the result of homicidal violence.

"There's some oddities to this fire; it's suspicious in nature," Granata added. "It's a little unusual, in the middle of the day the possibility of two victims. The weather wasn't a factor so we're going to look at every possible thing to try to get to the bottom of it."

After extinguishing the blaze, specialized canines were sent into the structure to sniff out accelerants.

The owner of the home was not there when the fire broke out. The unidentified man appeared to be visibly upset when he arrived and saw what was happening.

It's believed he knew the two men. Nearby residents were also shaken by the news that two people died.

"You don't want to hear about that in anybody's neighborhood let alone your own," said Bechtel.

Neighbors say they will pitch in to lend a helping hand to the man who lost an awful lot Sunday afternoon.

Bechtel: "It's a sad way to meet your neighbors but, you know, I'm glad to see everybody coming out and giving their support."

Homicide detectives with the St. Petersburg Police Department say they're looking for a missing vehicle that belonged to one of the victims.

They are hoping the public can help them find a black 2004 Ford pickup with a personalized tag reading "AREK."

There are also two devil horns painted on each side of the Ford emblem on the tailgate with a devil's tail painted underneath the emblem.

If you have any information on the missing truck you're asked to contact the St. Pete Police Department at 727-893-7780.

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