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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Body found in Christmas Eve arson is identified

Updated 10:10 pm, Thursday, January 3, 2013

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  • Antonio Vargas, of Bridgeport, watches as Bridgeport firefighters work on a fire in a home on Madison Court, in Bridgeport, Conn. on, Dec. 24th, 2012. The fire was one of three suspicious fires that broke out in a short period of time on Christams Eve afternoon. Photo: Ned Gerard

    Antonio Vargas, of Bridgeport, watches as Bridgeport firefighters work on a fire in a home on Madison Court, in Bridgeport, Conn. on, Dec. 24th, 2012. The fire was one of three suspicious fires that broke out in a short period of time on Christams Eve afternoon.

    Photo: Ned Gerard

 

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BRIDGEPORT -- Police on Thursday confirmed the body found in a burning house during the Christmas Eve and Day arson spree was that of Omar Chirinos -- and that he died of smoke inhalation.

But the department stopped short of declaring the matter a homicide and is awaiting further laboratory results from evidence collected at the scene.

Chirinos, 28, was found by firefighters inside 6 Madison Court, one of a handful of vacant properties set ablaze during the afternoon and evening of Dec. 24 while many city residents prepared to celebrate Christmas.

Although police had been awaiting an autopsy by the state medical examiner, others in the neighborhood last week told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers that Chirinos had fallen on hard times and had been squatting in the Madison Court home. They said his was the body firefighters discovered.

One neighbor -- Louis Castillo, of 2 Madison Court -- noted Chirinos' bike had not been moved from the back parking lot the two homes shared since the fire.

Police said Chirinos was identified through dental records and tattoos.

Chirinos' stepmother, Julia Madrid, who lives a few blocks away, said last week her son was living in an apartment near 6 Madison Court and she did not understand why he would have been at the building.

But she said many in the neighborhood had led the family to believe Chirinos died in the blaze. The family, while awaiting formal confirmation from the police, had begun to accept the sad news.

The city fire marshal is offering a $2,500 reward for any information leading to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the culprit or culprits.

The Christmas Eve fires began with a predawn blaze at a woodworking factory at 33 Knowlton St. That was followed in the afternoon by fires at 359 Olive St., 325 Center St. and 6 Madison Court.

As firefighters worked to extinguish the Madison Court blaze around 3 p.m., the Olive Street house re-ignited. Then 55 George St. was struck around 9:30 p.m.

By Christmas morning, both the Center and George Street houses were again engulfed in flames.

Firefighters received some minor injuries.

brian.lockhart@scni.com; 203-414-0712; http://twitter.com/blockhart1