Ada County Coroner identifies one of two Meridian house fire victims

Ada County Coroner identifies one of two Meridian house fire victims
Posted at 12:33 PM, Oct 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-05 07:32:45-04

It may be four to six weeks before we learn the identity of a man who reportedly broke into a south Meridian farmhouse last week, exchanged gunfire with deputies, and later died after the house was set afire, according to Ada County Coroner Dotti Owens.

“We have an idea who he is, but we will need DNA analysis to positively confirm (his identity),” she told us.

The man’s body was one of two found in the remains of the house at 1570 W. Amity Road on Wednesday, September 27th.

Owens explained her office uses four means to identify bodies: facial recognition, fingerprints, dental records, and DNA.

She said the man’s body was too charred to use facial recognition or fingerprinting techniques, and there were no dental records that could be located. “When we have someone that is not facially recognizable, we cannot pull fingerprints, and there isn't an opportunity for dental -- at that point, the only other thing we can do is DNA,” Owens explained.

“DNA analysis is a complex process and normally could take up to eight months, but I told the lab to expedite our request,” she said.

“My entire team -- forensics and investigation -- has been working since the incident to try to find some source of identification means,” she added.

The office is in the process of locating the man’s family members to do a familial DNA match.

“It's very important we make sure we have a positive identification,” said Owens. “Just because we think we know who was in the home, doesn't mean that’s actually who was on the property. We need to make sure for the grieving family that that's something we're 100 percent correct on."

The Coroner identified the second body as that of 84-year-old Carmen Abbott, whose name and photograph had previously been released by family members. Owens said Abbott died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The death has been ruled a homicide. Dental records were used to make the identification, Owens said.

Ada County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Meridian Police officers were dispatched to the rural home last Wednesday on a call of a possible prowler. Initial reports said the man banged on the door several times, before he gained entry.

Police shot at the armed suspect who later appeared in the front doorway. He then retreated into the home. The house caught fire a short time later.

Officers were able to rescue two people from the burning home. They were later identified as Scott and Lily McAlister. Scott was flown to the Salt Lake City Burn Center when he later died.

Lily is recuperating with family members.

The Ada County Sheriff said he strongly believes the third person who died in the fire may be the intruder.

Investigators said late last week they found no connection between the victims and the suspect.

The case is still under investigation.