Fire investigators in 2012 made no mention of a body in the scorched Marcy Street home where a skeleton was found earlier this month, according to Akron fire reports.
The fire devastated the abandoned home at 1345 Marcy St. on Nov. 24, 2012. Investigators estimated it caused $12,000 in damage to the dilapidated $24,000 home.
According to fire reports, the blaze began in a bedroom closet and rose into the attic. Investigators theorized it was started by “a vagrant trying to stay warm.” Neighbors reported to firefighters that people — some of whom were identified as “crack heads” — came and went from the abandoned house on a regular basis.
The home has remained vacant, though without its windows boarded, ever since the fire — until a human skull appeared on the sidewalk outside the house earlier this month. A neighbor who took photos of the skull declined to share them with a Beacon Journal reporter, but he did allow the reporter to view the photos.
The skull appeared charred in places and a tuft of blondish hair clung to its top. Some teeth were missing from its mouth and part of the head appeared to have been bashed in.
Anthropologists from Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania were called to the scene, where they found a full human skeleton inside the scorched house. A joint investigation is ongoing, including the resources of the university, Akron police and fire departments and the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office.
One important question investigators ponder is who put the skull on the sidewalk and why.
But until the investigation is complete — which could be months from now — the community can only theorize about the house on Marcy Street.
According to Summit County property records, the house was owned by Charlene Harrison until 2008, when she couldn’t keep up with tax payments. It was sold in a bulk sale to Go Invest Wisely LLC, a now-defunct Utah-based company that bought up dilapidated homes across the country and tried to sell them as rent-to-own homes.
Hundreds of lawsuits were filed against Go Invest Wisely in the years that followed — including almost 100 in Cuyahoga County — by cities and others who said many of the homes the company purchased were not maintained while buyers were sought and property taxes were not paid. Lawyers said the homes dropped property values in the neighborhoods where they stood.
The house on Marcy Street — which has $16,000 in back taxes owed on it — is one of those homes.
In October, the Summit County Reutilization Corporation, a land bank, filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court to acquire the home. Patrick Brown, the land bank’s executive director, said inspectors are required to establish a house is abandoned before filing in court, but they don’t have the authority to enter the home until the land bank possesses the property deed.
Brown told the Beacon Journal that the organization intends to demolish the home as part of a revitalization effort.
It’s unclear how much longer the house may stand, but Brown said the skeleton inside would have been discovered regardless of the skull’s sudden appearance.
“For multiple reasons once we acquire a property, we do a walk-through inside and outside. Somebody would have walked through the house in the coming weeks or months and found that body,” he said. “But it still doesn’t help us figure out who was in there and put the skull out there on the sidewalk.”
Nick Glunt can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NickGluntABJ.