A condemned Northfield Center Township home still stands more than a month after investigators alleged one of its owners set it ablaze, killing him, his wife and their two young daughters.
Township Trustee Paul Buescher said officials want the home demolished, but the township doesn’t control the property. The responsibility to pay for the demolition normally would fall on the home’s insurance company, but Nationwide Insurance denied liability because a policy with the homeowners specified the company wouldn’t have to pay in the event of arson.
Instead, Buescher said the next liable entity is Huntington Bank, which holds the mortgage on the home at 7486 Skyhaven Drive.
In a letter to Huntington on Friday, township zoning inspector Donald Saunders told the bank the home must be torn down because it poses a “severe health and safety issue.” He said the bank had been contacted multiple times with condemnation orders.
“This property will have the structure removed shortly with or without the bank’s cooperation,” Saunders wrote. “Portions of the home are blowing around the neighborhood now and the township will be required to clean up and remove this home shortly.”
Saunders posed three options to Huntington:
•?Huntington could hire a contractor to demolish the home and clean up the property.
•?The township could demolish the home and clean the property, then bill Huntington.
•?Huntington could sign to the have the Summit County Land Reutilization Corporation, a land bank, tear it down at no expense to the bank.
Saunders told the bank the township would demolish the home at the bank’s expense if it did not hear back within five business days.
Trustee Buescher said the township hopes the bank takes the third option.
“Our goal is to use the land bank funds,” he said.
Brent Wilder, a Huntington spokesman, said the bank had not decided how to move forward.
“We very recently received written notification from Northfield Center Township and are in the process of reaching out to discuss next steps,” he said.
The home, which was owned by Jeff and Cindy Mather, exploded into flames Jan. 11. The couple, both 43, lived there with their two daughters, 12-year-old Alyson and 8-year-old Ruthie.
The fire appeared to have been set by Jeff Mather, according to investigators with the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office. His body was discovered alone in the house with a gas can nearby. His wife and daughters were found in a hallway on the first floor, but investigators guessed they were actually upstairs and fell to the first floor when the ceiling collapsed.
Investigators found no signs of marital or financial problems, but they did learn Jeff Mather had been seeing a counselor after he reportedly heard a “dark voice” urging him to shoot himself in a park in early December.
Two days before the explosion, Cindy Mather reportedly told her sister through text message that her husband’s situation was looking “not well.”
Nick Glunt can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NickGluntABJ.