Monday, December 11, 2017
Public safety

Mysterious Clearwater fires remain under investigation

CLEARWATER — Days before a north Clearwater house was set ablaze in an apparent arson, the widowed owner sold her antique furniture in a yard sale, neighbors say.

Court records show the two-story home at 1051 Nokomis St., the scene of an unsolved 2008 murder, was in foreclosure when a fire late Thursday reduced it to a charred skeleton.

Rebecca Fenton, 46, and a retired veteran she cared for, both home at the time, escaped without harm, witnesses said.

Early Saturday, the sage green house caught fire again, and authorities believe that fire was intentionally set.

By late Tuesday, no one had been arrested. Both fires, which caused more than $100,000 in damages, remain under investigation, Clearwater police spokesman Rob Shaw said.

Fenton did not return calls Tuesday from the Tampa Bay Times. No one answered the door of an Apache Trail home where she is believed to be staying.

After two blazes and a slaying at the same address, neighbors are concerned.

Fenton's husband was shot dead five years ago in the home's foyer. Fenton told investigators at the time that she had been working in a detached garage when she heard a "pop." She was never ruled out as a suspect in the death of 57-year-old Larry A. Fenton, Shaw said Monday.

After her husband died, Fenton became the owner of the Nokomis Street home. Clearwater police were called there 10 times in the past year, Shaw said, for a variety of reasons.

Nokomis Street was quiet this week, save for a slow parade of cars. Drivers paused in front of the singed property marked by signs declaring "Arson" and "Cash Rewards," gawking or snapping photos.

"Every time someone goes by, I wonder, 'Are they a good guy? Are they a bad guy? Do I have to worry?' " said Jennifer Rohrbough, 32, who lives down the block. "It's sad I have to think that way now."

Rosemary Vault, who lives across the street from the burned house, said she watched the blaze Thursday as firefighters responded. She wanted to find Fenton and give her a prayer card.

"Everyone's afraid now," Vault said. "There's someone out there setting fires."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

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