Chillum fire now homicide scene; Two die in Seat Pleasant fire


Update; April 15, 2020: Police say they are investigating the Highview Terrace fire as an arson. Police believe the victim, 23-year-old Washington, D.C., resident Zena Nichols was fatally shot by 42-year-old Jerome Harris, who lived at Highview Terrace. Police believe Harris set the fire after killing Nichols. Harris is at large, and has been charged with first-degree murder.

Original Story

Two fires in Prince George’s County claimed three lives over the weekend. Police and fire officials are investigating an April 10, 2020, fire that killed two in Seat Pleasant and an April 10, 2020, fire that killed one in an apartment complex near the Mall at Prince George’s.

On April 9 at about 12:50 pm, the Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department responded to the 6400 block of Wilburn Drive near Seat Pleasant for a reported house fire.

The call indicated that people might be trapped in the house, a single-family wood frame home. Searching the house, they discovered an adult female dead in the basement and an adult man severely in an upstairs bedroom. The man was later identified as 80-year-old Capitol Heights resident Benjamin Thomas, who succumbed to his injuries April 10.

On April 10 at about 10:10 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to the 7000 block of Highview Terrace near Hyattsville. They were on the scene by 10:16 p.m. Smoke was showing from the windows and door of one apartment in a three-story garden-style apartment building.

The fire was contained to a bedroom inside of one of the units.  Inside that bedroom, firefights found a dead woman. Investigators said Saturday they are trying to identify the victim.

The body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy which will determine cause and manner of death. 

Two residents in a nearby apartment self-evacuated during the fire.  The Prince George’s County Office of Emergency Management provided assistance to four displaced residents.

Preliminarily, investigators determined the unit did not have a working smoke alarm.  The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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