UPDATE: New details revealed in fatal fire investigation - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Eau Claire Police address questions about fatal fire

Cheryl Lechner Cheryl Lechner

Eau Claire (WQOW) - Police say there's no information that would lead them to believe an Eau Claire woman was murdered last month.

On Thursday, police released a statement about the investigation into Cheryl Lechner's death.

While the autopsy determined Lechner died from smoke inhalation due to a fire in her Hamilton Avenue home on October 1st, the fire department reports WQOW News 18 obtained on Wednesday show she also had another injury.  She had a stab or puncture wound to the chest.  Firefighters said her shirt was soaked with blood, but she was no longer bleeding when she was found.  On Thursday, police said, based on evidence and interviews, they believe that was a self inflicted injury.

Police say they're still waiting for a report from the crime lab before they make a final decision on the case.  A toxicology test is one thing being analyzed by the lab.

Firefighters have been unable to determine the cause of the fire in the home.  Police say they don't know if the fire was an accident or if Lechner, or someone else, set it intentionally.  Investigators also answered a question about why the family's business was searched.  Police said there were several things they had to consider after rescue crews discovered the stab wound, but again, they're now saying they don't have any reason to believe this is a homicide and are not looking for any suspects.


Press Release from the Eau Claire Police Department: On October 1, 2012, Eau Claire Police and Fire were called to 3631 E. Hamilton Avenue for a report of a structure fire. Upon arrival, fire personnel located one of the homeowners, Cheryl M. Lechner, in the basement of the residence. She was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The Eau Claire Police Department worked in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation to process the scene and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire and the death of Cheryl Lechner.

On October 2, 2012, an autopsy was performed by forensic pathologists at the Regina Medical Center in Hastings, Minnesota. The preliminary results of the autopsy indicated the cause of death to be carbon monoxide poisoning. The manner of death officially remains undetermined pending examination results of the evidence that was gathered by investigators and submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab.

The autopsy did reveal that Cheryl Lechner had two wounds located in the area beneath her left breast. The first was a superficial hesitation wound. The second was a puncture wound that was just below the first and horizontal in nature. Additionally, both of these wounds were found underneath her clothing, not the result of an instrument penetrating through her clothing. These wounds were not the cause of Cheryl Lechner's death. According to the forensic pathologists, the evidence examined to date is consistent with self-inflicted injuries. Furthermore, interviews conducted by investigators provided corroborating information that also fit with the probability of Lechner's injuries being a result of a self-inflicted act.

Neither the Eau Claire Police Department nor the Eau Claire County Medical Examiner's Office has made a final determination as to the overall disposition of this case. A final determination will only be made once all of the evidence has been thoroughly examined by the crime lab and reviewed by the investigators assigned to this case.


Eau Claire (WQOW) - A mysterious fire killed an Eau Claire woman last month.  New information only adds to the mystery.  On Wednesday, WQOW News 18 obtained an Eau Claire Fire Department report of the investigation into that fire.

Cheryl Lechner died in the October 1st fire at her home on Hamilton Avenue.  The autopsy showed she died of smoke inhalation, but she also had another injury.  Fire department  reports show Lechner had a stab or puncture wound to the chest.  Firefighters estimated the wound to be a half-inch to one-inch long, but although her shirt was soaked with blood, they say she was no longer bleeding when she was found.

The reports do not show whether a knife was found at the scene; a knife or any other instrument that could've caused her injury.  Lechner's body was discovered on the bathroom floor in the basement near the fire, but the reports indicate the fire was only four feet by four feet in size.  It was extinguished immediately when firefighters sprayed a small amount of water on it.  They say the fire started along a wall and destroyed a chair.

Firefighters also noted what they described as 'unusual burn patterns' on the carpet.  They say there were not any smoke detectors sounding when they arrived.  The subsequent investigation showed the battery had been disconnected or removed.  The fire department has been unable to determine the cause of the fire.

The fire department reports say there were two basement exits.  The reports show a contributing factor to her death was that she chose an "inappropriate exit route" by going into the bathroom.

The Eau Claire Police Department continues to investigate the fire.  Recently, police said they are still waiting for test results from the state crime lab.

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