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Second Suspicious Fatal Fire In Two Days Kills Two Women At Boardinghouse

November 28, 1988

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Arson is suspected in two weekend fires that killed six people and sent nine others to hospitals, police said.

Both fires began on the porches of the buildings, said Deputy Fire Chief David Norling. The fire Sunday killed two women at a boardinghouse, and the fire Saturday at a duplex killed four people and critically injured a fifth person.

Later Saturday, a third suspicious fire that also began on a porch damaged a home a few blocks from the duplex, authorities said.

But Sgt. Tom Skala of the police homicide division said it is not known whether the blazes were related. Police had no suspects.

Fourteen people, several of whom were mentally ill, lived at the boardinghouse in the low-income neighborhood near downtown, said Mike Harris, its manager. Al Bates, who said he owns the boardinghouse, said he was told by investigators that the fire was caused by flammable liquid spilled on the front porch of the two-story wooden building and ignited.

The body of one of the dead women was discovered a few feet from the front door.

″She almost made it,″ said resident Jim Fitzgivens. ″If she would have gone to the back door, she would have made it, but she went to where the fire was.″

He escaped by breaking through a first-floor window.

″I couldn’t make it another two seconds,″ Fitzgivens said. ″The smoke was so black. I took one inhale of that smoke, and I knew I would die, so I didn’t take another.″

The two dead women were identified by the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office as Judith Peck, 47, and Patricia Sjorgren, 51, who lived in the building.

Eight people were brought to the Hennepin County Medical Center from the boardinghouse. Two were in serious condition, one in satsfactory condition and the others were treated and released, the hospital said.

Homicide Sgt. Michael LaVine said the duplex fire deaths Saturday were being investigated as a multiple homicide.

The medical examiner’s office identified the victims as Carol Ann Kugel, 41; her sons, Don Smith, 22, and Wayne Kugel, 10; and a family friend, James Jackson, 21.

All four died from smoke inhalation. Jackson’s twin brother, Joseph, who also was visiting, remained in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Six people who were downstairs in the wooden duplex escaped unharmed after a fire alarm sounded, fire officials said.

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