New Information: Police identify woman killed in EC house fire - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Police identify woman who died in fire; Family releases statement

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Cheryl Lechner Cheryl Lechner

Eau Claire (WQOW) - More information has been released about a woman's death, but it could be weeks before some key questions are answered.

The Eau Claire Police Department identified the victim as 47-year-old Cheryl Lechner.  Her body was found Monday in the basement of her East Hamilton Avenue home, which is where a fire had started.  An autopsy shows she died of carbon monoxide poisoning from smoke inhalation.  Police say they still don't know the circumstances surrounding her death or what caused the fire.  "I think there's still suspicion just because, again, we have a death inside of a residence where there's a fire that is undetermined what the cause is... so until we're able to get results back from some of the evidence that was collected inside the home that will be sent to the crime lab, that hopefully will help us determine the cause of the fire itself," said Officer Kyle Roder.

Roder says they have not ruled out whether Lechner's death was an accident, a suicide, or homicide.  Roder also says police did not put up the chain-link fence that could be seen at the home on Wednesday.  He says police finished their work at the house Thursday and turned the home back over to the owners.

On Wednesday, the family released the following statement to WQOW News 18:

"The family of Cheryl Lechner is devastated by the tragic loss of their wife, mother, sister, and daughter.  They sincerely appreciate all the prayers and support they have received from the Eau Claire community.  All efforts have been fully extended to cooperate with the authorities.  We hope for a speedy conclusion to the investigation so that the family can grieve their loss.  Cheryl was a respected local business owner and will be missed by many."

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Eau Claire (Press Release) - On Monday, October 1, 2012, at 1:26 p.m. Eau Claire Police and Fire were called to 3631 E. Hamilton Avenue for a report of a structure fire at that residence.

Upon arrival, Eau Claire Fire Department personnel observed and controlled a working fire located in the basement of the residence. A lone adult female was also located inside the residence.

Eau Claire Fire / Rescue ultimately determined that the female could not be resuscitated. No one else was inside the residence at that time.

Eau Claire Police also responded to the scene and secured the area surrounding the residence. Investigators from the Eau Claire Police Department Detective Division, the Eau Claire Fire Inspector and the Eau Claire County Medical Examiner arrived on scene and began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fire and the death of the female inside.

The deceased has been identified as:
Cheryl M. Lechner
47 years old
3631 E. Hamilton Avenue
Eau Claire, WI

Over the past two days, investigators from the Eau Claire Police Department, the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with members of the Eau Claire Police Department Crime Scene Unit have worked to conduct interviews, gather physical evidence and piece together important information pertaining to this case. Both the residence at 3631 E. Hamilton Avenue and the business located nearby at 3407 E. Hamilton Avenue are owned by the Lechner family. As a result, both locations have been included in our overall case investigation.

On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, an autopsy was performed by forensic pathologists at the Regina Medical Center in Hastings, Minnesota. The preliminary results of the autopsy indicate the following:

Cause of Death: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Manner of Death: Undetermined pending further investigation

At this time, the cause of the fire is also undetermined pending additional investigation.

This case remains an open investigation and continues to be actively investigated by the Eau Claire Police Department Detective Division and the Wisconsin Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigation.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - There's new information Tuesday in the investigation into the death of a woman whose body was found inside a burning home in Eau Claire. Dozens of officers were at the house on East Hamilton Avenue again on Tuesday, police did clear the scene early Tuesday evening.

Firefighters were called to the home Monday when a neighbor reported flames coming from a basement window. Fire officials confirmed that the fire started in the basement. Police aren't saying where exactly the woman's body was found.

On Tuesday detectives, along with agents from the state fire marshal's office and state department of criminal investigation combed the scene looking for clues.

According to the city's website, the home is owned by Wolverine Properties. We do know that the Wolverine Lube Station, one block away from the house, was closed Tuesday. Officers were stationed at that business.

"We've got reason to believe that there is some connection, so that's why we do have officers there. Whether it's direct or indirect, or to what extent, that's something that we're going to keep as part of our investigation at this point, and hopefully release more as we are able to do so," says Officer Kyle Roder of the Eau Claire Police Department. "I would say based on the scene and the information that we have right now, that there's some suspicion."

Police say no one has been arrested. Earlier Tuesday officers formed a line and walked the neighborhood looking for any possible evidence. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also brought in a dog trained to detect if accelerants are present at the fire scene.  

Detectives continued talking with neighbors trying to establish a time frame of anything that may have happened at or near the home before the fire broke out.

An autopsy was done Tuesday. Police tell WQOW News 18, they expect to release preliminary autopsy results Wednesday, along with the woman's name. Late Tuesday afternoon, East Hamilton Avenue was reopened near the home.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Over eight hours after the investigation into a house fire, that led to the discovery of a woman's body; there are still many un-answered questions.

Eau Claire police and firefighters were called to a home on the city's east side, where they made the tragic discovery. The woman who was found inside the home has not been identified and it's still not clear how she died or what caused the fire.

The Eau Claire Police Department says they are treating the home as a crime scene, which they do until they determine whether a crime was committed.  They'll be at the house all Monday night, into Tuesday.  Also, E. Hamilton Avenue from Alf Avenue, to Miller Street will be closed into Tuesday morning.

On Monday, the Eau Claire Fire Department responded to a house fire on the 36-hundred block of E. Hamilton Avenue. Inside the home, a woman was found dead. Both the Eau Claire Fire and Police Departments were on scene, to take part in the investigation. 

Officer Kyle Roder, with the Eau Claire Police Departments, says, "Anytime we have a structure fire and a deceased person inside, it gives us two separate incidences, within one. So, it is a little bit unusual but at this point, we don't know what the cause of all that is. Our crime scene unit will continue to process the scene, both inside and outside of the residence, throughout the neighborhood,  throughout the night, and as long as it takes to get everything that we feel comfortable with."

This all unfolded Monday afternoon, when a neighbor alerted police to the fire.

Roder says, "A neighbor here of the residence called in, indicating that they saw smoke coming from the windows inside of the residence."

Many questions remain and police say they will continue to sift through the details until they have answers. 

"We're very cautious and we want to be as inclusive as possible, and not exclude any possibilities, so we're definitely going to cover all of our basis and take as much time as we need to do. We're not going to hurry this along," says Roder.

Police expect an autopsy will be performed Tuesday.  There could also be more information released on the woman's identity Tuesday. Police canvassed the neighborhood Monday and interviewed many people. 

Police are asking anyone who saw anything suspicious, or out of the ordinary, near the home late Monday morning or early Monday afternoon to call them.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Investigators have confirmed that a woman has been found dead in a home on Monday afternoon.

Firefighters were called to the home on the 3600 East Hamilton Avenue after a report of a fire inside.  No more details are being released at this point about the victim.

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Eau Claire Police have shut down streets on the city's east side as emergency crews respond to a house fire.

Parts of East Hamilton Ave. from Miller to Lamont Street have been blocked off.  Alf Street is also closed to traffic.  Drivers are being asked to avoid the area if possible.

A fire broke out in a home on the 3600 block of East Hamilton Ave. on Monday afternoon. Caution tape has been strung up outside the residence.

Police say they are investigating the cause.

We have a reporter at the scene. Continue to follow WQOW online and on air for more information as it is released. 

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