HOLIDAY — When he wasn't incarcerated or living in the woods, Wyatt Vanover had a fondness for squatting in homes that weren't his, authorities said. It appears that since his latest release from the Pasco jail on Dec. 3, where the 59-year-old had been held on a DUI charge, Vanover was living at the Holiday home of a Michigan snowbird too sick to travel south for the winter.
In recent weeks, neighbors noticed the electricity turned on, the pool pump pumping. Then, on Sunday, they smelled smoke.
The house was on fire.
Vanover's body was found inside the charred home. Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman Doug Tobin said the cause of the fire was under investigation but appears to have begun in the kitchen, perhaps by something left on the stove.
"The fire, at this point, appears accidental," Tobin said. The medical examiner will determine Vanover's cause of death, he said.
Vanover, who also went by the surnames of Vancoover, Vancouver and Vancover, had a long history of violent convictions, such as battery on law enforcement officers, resisting arrest and domestic battery, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records say. In March, authorities say, he threatened two roommates with a knife and said he would kill their cat. No one was hurt. Vanover served three months in jail.
The house at 2647 Flintwood Drive is owned by Lorraine Martin Breitkreuz, who is 79 and soon to undergo back surgery in Michigan. She bought the house more than 30 years ago with her first husband, Robert Martin. They loved the tile roof and the back yard facing quiet, beautiful woods. The neighbors became dear friends. The Martins lived there full-time and had an insurance agency. Then Robert died in 1990 and Lorraine returned to Michigan. There, she began dating Hugo Breitkreuz, an old friend. They were married 17 years and spent winters at the Holiday home. He died two years ago.
Mrs. Breitkreuz doesn't think she will rebuild. The neighborhood has changed. Part of the woods was cleared for a road behind their home. It can be noisy from traffic. Many of the neighbors have died or moved in with their children.
On Monday, she couldn't remember dates or the things she lost in the fire, photos, mementos. It was too overwhelming.
"It's very upsetting right now," she said.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.