WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The family of a Luzerne County woman killed in a fire in 2014 speaks out about the ongoing police investigation. They say they do not believe the case will be solved.
This comes as investigators are ramping up their efforts to solve what some are calling a fatal fire mystery. 51-year-old Laurie Merritt died as a result of a fire at her home. Investigators say the fire was intentionally set. Merritt’s family tells the I-Team they will never stop seeking justice for her.
“It’s really hard to deal with. I miss her terribly. I kind of feel we are fighting a losing battle,” Merritt’s daughter Kristin Merritt said.
Kristin Merritt says not a day goes by when she is not thinking about her mother, her best friend.
She recently graduated from nursing school as an RN and paid tribute to her mother.
“Anybody will tell you that she was the most beautiful ray of sunshine. She would cheer up anybody,” Merritt said.
The 51-year-old Merritt died from carbon monoxide poisoning. She was found in the attic crawl space of her home on Wyoming Street in Wilkes-Barre on the night of April 14, 2014.
A state police fire marshal determined the fire was intentionally set. The manner of death has not been determined. As the investigation continues, the Merritt family has questioned the investigation since day one.
Several years ago they put up a billboard questioning the case.
“Had this gone a little differently from the beginning it could have been a different outcome. Seven years have passed. Whatever investigators did that’s what we have to live with,” Merritt said.
When asked if she was optimistic an arrest would be made, Merritt replied: “To be honest with you no! We are not optimistic at all.”
“It’s really the most puzzling case that I’ve ever been involved in in my 19 years in the office so solving it is what we do. It’s an important thing to me and the investigators in the case,” Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said.
Luzerne County detectives and Wilkes-Barre Police recently met with a special state police crime unit in Harrisburg to look at the case. 20 veteran investigators reviewed the evidence collected over the past seven years.
“They were able to give us some of their impressions about the case, some of their concerns and also they have different contacts with certain experts that they thought might be helpful to our investigation. You know we are going to pursue those leads,” Sanguedolce said.
When asked if he was optimistic the case would be solved, Sanguedolce said: “Yes. I’m optimistic. It isn’t a case where we are out of leads and out of ideas. It’s taken longer than we wanted to get some of the answers we sought and that is part of the reason it’s taking so much time. But I’m optimistic we will find out exactly what happened to Laurie Merritt.”
The Merritt family tells the I-Team they believe they know exactly what happened and who started the fire. They have passed the information on to investigators.
D.A. Sanguedolce will only say this investigation is moving forward.