A 53-year-old city man is in the Lycoming County Prison charged with criminal homicide for allegedly causing the death of his wife, whose body was discovered late Friday night in the couple’s West Fourth Street apartment during a two-alarm fire.
According to city police, as the fire was burning out of control at 1450 W. Fourth St., Michael W. Wright walked into nearby Ann’s Tavern, 503 Rose St., and soon started blurting out to employees that he had killed his wife.
“At first they (the employees) kind of joked with him, not believing what he had just told them,” Agent Trent Peacock said in an affidavit.
However, Wright again repeated the statement that he “killed his wife” and later said it again to the police.
“No, really. I killed her,” Peacock said Wright told investigators.
The blaze broke out about 10:35 p.m. and a woman’s body was discovered in the Wright’s first-floor apartment in a bedroom shortly before midnight, police said. The fire was declared under control about the same time.
Court records identified the victim as Wright’s wife, Lynn. However, Lycoming County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr. said his office will not officially release the woman’s identity until late Monday after an autopsy is completed. He did say the victim was in her 50s.
Besides the Wrights, Debra DelJonovan also lived in the two-unit apartment house. She lived on the second floor with her cat, Tiger.
When the fire erupted, she spent a minute or two desperately looking for her cat until city police Lt. Steve Helm, the first officer on the scene, ordered her to get out.
“The fire was really rolling. This was no time to look for the cat,” Helm said.
Flames were shooting from the front of the building. Passersby had pounded on the front door, but were driven off the porch by intense heat and smoke.
As he was walking around the building, Helm saw a light on inside a second-floor room. He dashed up an exterior stairwell and encountered DelJonovan.
“There was a wall of smoke in the room,” said Helm, who practically had to pull the woman out of the apartment.
“She was distraught. She wanted her cat, and I understood that. However, I told her ‘You can’t go back in there. It’s not safe,’ ” Helm said.
The officer then helped the woman down the outside stairwell.
Tiger was found alive hours later hiding under a couch. The cat made a dash to a porch, where it was picked up by an investigator. The cat was given some oxygen and then taken to a veterinarian for further treatment.
Sometime after midnight, Wright’s brother arrived at the fire scene. The brother eventually found Wright at Ann’s Tavern. The brothers then returned to the scene.
“Michael Wright was intoxicated, but he agreed to accompany me to police headquarters,” Peacock said.
While the two were on their way to the police station, Peacock received information from another officer who said witnesses at the tavern reported that “Wright made several statements about killing his wife. Wright was then placed in custody and detained,” the affidavit states.
Due to his level of intoxication, Wright was not questioned, Peacock said. However, at one point during the night, while he was being taken to a rest room by two officers, “Wright made this unsolicited statement ‘I killed my wife,’ ” according to the affidavit.
At least two tavern employees reported to investigators that they heard Wright made self-incriminating statements, police said.
Wright was arraigned just after 6 p.m. Saturday before District Judge James Carn and automatically placed in the Lycoming County Prison since no bail is set in homicide cases.
Police are not saying if Wright made any remarks as to how he killed his wife.
Investigators also are not saying if the origin and cause of the fire have been determined.
A dog from the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office that is trained to detect accelerants was brought to the scene and went through the first floor. Investigators would not say Saturday night if the animal reacted in any way.