Evidence supports murder-suicide, say police

Did niece take aging aunt with her in deadly Sierra Dawn fire?

Chris Smith / The Valley Chronicle
The house fire at 1645 W. Johnston Ave. in Sierra Dawn Estates that killed two women also burned up the residents’ parked car. Neighbors saw the sedan burning and called the fire department even before the house went up.

■ By Chris Smith / Advisory Editor

Arson investigators are piecing together bits of information and evidence gathered at the scene of a deadly fire in Hemet’s Sierra Dawn Estates that police believe involved a murder-suicide.
The 8 p.m. fire Saturday, Dec. 29, that consumed a double-wide manufactured home at 1645 W. Johnston Ave., between Lyon Avenue and Elk Street, was occupied by a 79-year-old woman and her 54-year-old niece who was taking care of her elderly aunt, according to news reports. Police believe the younger caretaker may have become fed up with her duties tending to her aging aunt and ended things for both of them.
The Riverside County Coroner has yet to release the names of the women. While their identities are expected to be made public in the near future, final results of the arson investigation could take months, according to Hemet Police Lt. Jeff Davis. Asked how certain police are of the cause of the fire, Davis replied: “Evidence supports murder suicide.”

The double-wide mobile home at 1645 W. Johnston Ave. in Sierra Dawn Estates was destroyed in a fire that apparently was set as part of a murder-suicide. The fire reportedly killed both women occupants, an aunt, 79, and her 54-year-old niece.

The call originally came in as a car fire, and both a vehicle and the home were ablaze when firefighters arrived. After neighbors told firemen that two people were trapped inside, firemen bravely suited up and entered the burning house. Inside among the flames, they found one of the women alive. They pulled her from the inferno and she was rushed to Hemet Valley Medical Center but soon died from her injuries, according to authorities.
According to Riverside County News Source, firemen didn’t find the body of the second woman until an extensive search of the premises was possible once the fire had been extinguished. Some two dozen firefighters fought the blaze, which involved all five of Hemet’s engine companies and two from Cal Fire.
Eerie notes posted by the niece on social media and other evidence gathered at the scene reportedly led investigators to believe the niece had planned her and her aunt’s demise. The niece is said to have blamed family members, whom she named, for not offering her enough help in caring for her aging aunt, though the family members apparently did reach out and offer to help her before the event’s final saga.
Also killed in the fire were two cats presumed to have belonged to the women.

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