Thousands Of Coins Found In Charred Rubble Of Eccentric's Home
Jul. 11, 1988
FRUITLAND PARK, Fla. (AP) _ An elderly man regarded by neighbors as a poor, eccentric loner died when fire swept through his mobile home and left behind a trove of coins, some of them gold and silver.
Andrew Baca, 75, was found dead in a kitchen chair by firefighters after a Saturday morning blaze at his home in this Central Florida town. An autopsy showed he died of smoke inhalation and third-degree burns, authorities said.
The blaze ignited a propane tank and exploded bullets in the home, forcing the authorities to evacuate 30 surrounding homes and injuring one firefighter. Mike Jacobs, 30, was treated at a nearby hospital for an apparent bullet wound to his right foot.
After dousing the blaze, firefighters and police searched the ruins and found thousands of coins, including some from the Orient, the Caribbean and Africa, and mint sets from the U.S. Treasury.
The haul, which filled six large metal garbage cans, was taken to the Lake County Sheriff's Office in a pickup truck for safekeeping, said a woman at the sheriff's office who declined to be identified. Authorities said they didn't know how much the coins were worth.
George Baca, of Pittsburgh, said by telephone Saturday that his brother was a speculator who owned the coins for years and planned to sell them for a profit eventually.
But news of the cache stunned neighbors, who described Baca as an eccentric loner so tight with his money that he drew his electricity through an extension cord hooked up to the trailer next door.
Junk was piled so high in his yard that it nearly obscured his small mobile home from view and neighbors frequently complained that his yard was a haven for rats and snakes.
Inside, the home was cluttered by tall stacks of newspapers and books, washing machines, lawn mowers, mattresses and ''you name it,'' said neighbor Laura Trumble, 70.
When people asked Baca to fix up his home, he always grumbled, ''It doesn't bother me,'' Mrs. Trumble said.