KINGSTON TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Was it accidental or something more sinister?
That’s the question Luzerne County law enforcement is trying to answer in connection with a deadly fire. 84-year-old James Carl Goodwin was killed when flames ripped through his home in Kingston Township in April of last year. The family says they want answers and justice for their loved one.
Investigators tell the I-Team the case is moving forward. They are calling the fire suspicious. Goodwin’s brother tells Eyewitness News the family wants closure.
“I just want justice for my brother. I don’t think anyone would have a family member die in a house fire like that and not know how it happened,” James’ brother Donn Goodwin said.
Donn Goodwin, who lives in Florida, says he watched his family home on Harris Hill Road in Kingston Township burn on the morning of April 30th of last year. It was just after 10 a.m. Goodwin says a former neighbor of his called him and said there was video of the fire as it happened on the internet.
“And I got on the computer and I was horrified to see my house was burning and I had no idea where my brother was at the time,” Goodwin said.
The body of his brother, 84-year-old James Carl Goodwin, was found a short time later on the first floor of the home. An autopsy shows he died from smoke inhalation.
The home was torn down shortly after the fire. Wednesday the I-Team found a snow-covered field and the garage that was not damaged by the fire. Investigators say a 50-year-old man also lived at the home with Goodwin. The man, who we are not identifying because he has not been charged with any crime in connection with the fire, has been questioned by detectives in connection with the fire.
According to search warrant affidavits filed shortly after the fire, the man told police he used a lighter to find a cell phone and set a mattress on fire in his bedroom. According to those same court documents, he told police he splashed water on the mattress believing the fire was out, before leaving the home between 9:30 and 9:45 that morning.
Investigators say the man’s clothing, car and the home were searched for possible evidence in connection with the fire. Detectives are not saying what, if anything, was found in those searches.
On the cover pages of the affidavits, the possible crimes were listed as involuntary manslaughter and arson.
“So at this point, yes we are treating it as a criminal investigation until proven otherwise,” Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said.
Sanguedolce says they are awaiting results of forensic testing. He also talked about the focus on the man who lived with Goodwin.
“He’s just one of the parts of the investigation. He was a witness at the time. He was present for some of the incidents that occurred. He’s cooperated with police early on. We haven’t had contact with him recently. As I said, there are a number of facets we are pursuing in this case. I won’t go so far as to say he’s a suspect,” Sanguedolce said.
For Donn Goodwin, it’s a matter of having peace of mind and finding peace for his brother.
“I have only one concern. How can it not be a crime when someone dies in a fire that he did not set? Somebody’s responsible for something,” Donn Goodwin said.
The I-Team did talk with several neighbors. They say they too want to know what happened to their friend.