PONTIAC, Mich. – Police in Oakland County are trying to identify a “shadowy figure” who was seen walking between the rooms of a Pontiac home moments before it went up in flames, ultimately killing two people and injuring five others.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the fire happened at 2:44 a.m. Jan. 17 at a home in the 800 block of St. Clair Street, near Kennett Road and Baldwin Avenue.
Fire investigators have ruled this a case of arson, and the deaths were ruled homicides. Officials are trying to identify the person who started the fire.
“They have been unable to identify the person whose silhouette is seen in a grainy surveillance video that shows a shadowy figure moving around near the suspected source of the fire moments before it began,” a release from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office reads.
Deputies and Waterford Township firefighters were called to the scene and found the house already engulfed in flames. Police said multiple residents had jumped from the second-floor windows to escape the smoke and heat.
A second-floor exit door at the front of the home had been shut with a deadbolt, preventing anyone from getting out, officials said.
2 killed, 5 injured
Police said the house contained eight bedrooms. It housed men who were adjusting to life outside prison after being recently incarcerated.
Ten adults were inside at the time of the fire, and many of suffered serious injuries after jumping from the second floor, police said. One man broke his back and ankle. Another required knee surgery.
Jeff Donnelly, 59, and Brandon Andrews, 19, both of Pontiac, were killed in the fire, according to authorities.
Investigators said they reviewed surveillance footage from a commercial building nearby and noticed a figure walking between rooms of the home on the ground floor, moments before the fire.
That person can be seen walking in the kitchen, dining room and living room several times before the fire started, according to authorities.
Within 20 seconds of his final walk around the house, flames are visible through the window, officials said. The fire spread rapidly through the home.
The fire has officially been ruled arson, and both deaths have been ruled homicides, authorities said.
A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.
“We would greatly appreciate the public’s help in identifying this person or providing any other information that could further our investigation into these tragic deaths,” Bouchard said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office at 248-858-5001, or the Detroit Crime Commission at 1-800-442-7766.