Police investigate body in Somerset Borough

April 7, 2019

Somerset police are investigating a body found in a brush fire at the corner of Musselman Avenue and East Patriot Street in the borough Saturday.

Officials say a motorist saw smoke before 5 p.m. and began investigating. Upon approaching the fire, mixed with a large stack of old wooden utility poles, the motorists appeared to find a charred corpse at the scene.

“He was close enough to think he was looking at a body, as it turned out he was,” Somerset Borough police Chief Randy Cox said in a phone call to the Daily American. “He called 911 (and) has been interviewed.”

Somerset and Listie fire departments responded to put out the blaze. Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller responded to the scene, and an autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

Somerset Borough police were still investigating the scene Sunday, assisted by the Pennsylvania State Police Forensic Services, the state police fire marshal and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Crews are working with a scene that was approximately 30 by 100 feet.

In a borough police press release, officers said there’s an early theory that the person used an accelerant to set the stack of poles on fire and somehow became engulfed in the flames. Officials added the person was possibly still holding the container with the accelerant at the time, and seemed to retreat a short distance from the fire.

“We have a theory on how it happened and how the fire progressed, and things like that,” he said. “We have a fire inspector on scene (Sunday) who has confirmed some of our early theories.”

Officials added evidence is still being examined by the the Pennsylvania State Police Regional Crime Laboratory. Cox said that there was very little physical evidence at the scene to establish the person’s identity.

Cox said the department is only able to theorize and speculate on what might have happened until the evidence has been processed.

“We are not drawing any conclusions until we can put more information together especially on the identity of this person,” Cox said. “We’re open to different theories as to what might have happened.”

Cox added the department has not received any missing person reports as of Sunday afternoon. Anyone with information is asked to contact the department at 814-445-1525.