Official: Southwest Wichita fire was set intentionally; person found dead

The fire at a house near Pawnee and Seneca where one person was found dead this week was intentionally set, Wichita fire officials said Wednesday.

Officials suspect the victim was a 61-year-old man, fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said, but he wouldn’t confirm a positive identification or how the man died until an autopsy was completed.

“Pending the autopsy, the cause and manner of death has not been determined,” Bevis said. The autopsy was being conducted Wednesday.

Investigators have determined the fire was started Tuesday afternoon between the front end of a GMC Yukon parked in the driveway of the house in the 800 block of West Savannah and the garage, Bevis said.

The distance between the garage and the vehicle was about four or five feet, Bevis added, and the body was found in that small space. The fire spread to the garage door and the house’s attic before it was put out.

No one was home at the time.

“We found evidence to indicate that this was not an accident,” he said. “It’s not like it was a vehicle fire that led to this.”

Bevis wouldn’t confirm whether the victim started the fire or how it was started, citing the need to get autopsy and lab reports first.

“Everything else is just speculation,” he said.

On Tuesday, Matthew Haner, the son of the woman who lived alone at the house, said his mother last week obtained a temporary restraining order from stalking against a man she had recently dated briefly before breaking off the relationship. He also said the Yukon with a Florida license plate in the driveway belonged to the man he knew only as Dave.

Sedgwick County District Court records show the restraining order was against David M. Conner, 61. A police document on Tuesday’s incident also showed the victim was a 61-year-old man.

Bevis acknowledged that a man who didn’t live at the house had been in a relationship with the home’s resident.

“The vehicle had been there previously because there had been a relationship,” Bevis said. “There had been a restraining order filed to protect the lady who lived there. Beyond that, it starts getting into speculation until we have a positive identification.”

The loss from the fire was adjusted to $70,000 to include the total loss of the Yukon, he said.

If the coroner rules it was a fire death, Bevis said it would be Wichita’s fifth this year.

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