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Police: Man's death in South Tampa arson being investigated as homicide

TAMPA — Arson investigators scrutinized a Thursday morning fire after rescuers found a dying man inside the South Tampa home.

The man, Richard Lee Blackman, 65, was rushed to Tampa General Hospital, where he died.

Tampa police said his death is being investigated as a homicide but did not say what caused it. The fire was ruled suspicious.

A witness reported smoke and flames at 1:39 a.m., police said. Firefighters arrived about 1:45 a.m. at the beige, two-story house at 6709 W Interbay Blvd., said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Lonnie Benniefield.

Blackman was found downstairs in the living room and was pulled from the burning home.

He lived in the house where the fire was set and also rented out a house next door to Steven Tourville, 36. Tourville described his landlord of two years as a nice man who lived alone and largely kept to himself.

"It really is a shame,'' said Tourville.

It took about 25 minutes for firefighters to get the flames under control, officials said. A portion of Interbay Boulevard was temporarily closed.

The fire was reported to 911 from the nearby Circle K convenience store, officials said.

A witness told Bay News 9 that someone was seen jumping over a brick wall and running from the house shortly after the fire began.

Police released part of the convenience store's surveillance video, which shows images of a woman investigators said they were trying to locate.

Police said the woman was not a suspect, but was at the store about the same time as the fire.

The woman was seen driving a white, four-door car and wearing a pink top, pink bandana and blue jean shorts.

She backed the car into the convenience store lot, and entered the store twice — once with the bandana and once without. She told the clerk she was from Lakeland, police said.

That woman may be able to help police solve this case.

The fire was being investigated as an arson and homicide, police said.

Blackman suffered second- and third-degree burns, but an autopsy was being performed to determine the cause of death.

It was unclear Thursday how the fire started.

Anyone with information about the fire can contact the Tampa Police Department at (813) 231-6130.

Times staff writer Marissa Lang and researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Police: Man's death in South Tampa arson being investigated as homicide 09/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 10:07pm]
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