Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Public safety

Police, firefighters find body in rubble of St. Petersburg home destroyed by fire

ST. PETERSBURG — The body of a 51-year-old man was found Sunday in the rubble of his home destroyed in a fire last week, officials said.

Ronald Lawrence Black, 51, was a tenant living at 4340 Sixth Ave. N. His body was discovered Sunday by workers hired to clear out the fire debris.

It was not immediately clear whether Black died in the Thursday morning fire or had died beforehand.

Two guests, who had been staying in the house with Black the night of the fire, told firefighters Thursday morning that Black had been doing drugs and making suicidal statements during the course of the night. This was "unusual" behavior for him, officials said.

Just before the fire broke out, Black had been praying at a makeshift altar with multiple burning candles, investigators said.

Firefighters had initially said candles lit near a window curtain ignited the flames, which destroyed the one-story wood-frame house.

The two guests evacuated the apartment and told firefighters they did not see where Black had gone.

Another witness told investigators he had seen Black outside of the apartment heading west down an alley after the fire started, St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue spokesman Lt. Joel Granata said.

Believing Black had fled the scene, was potentially suicidal and intoxicated, police listed Black as a missing and endangered person in the aftermath of the fire.

No injuries were initially reported.

On Sunday, two workers hired to clear the debris from the property discovered Black's body and called 911, Granata said. Black was identified following an preliminary report performed by the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office.

It did not appear the body had suffered any trauma or violence, according to the medical examiner's report. An autopsy and toxicology report will be performed.

Contact Marissa Lang at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.

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