November 27, 2013

Cause of death returned in duplex explosion

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — An autopsy of the body found following the explosion of a duplex has been released, determining the cause of death.

Preliminary reports indicate that 29-year-old Neil Spitser of Dorthea Road in southern Laurel County died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A pistol was recovered from the incinerated vehicle where Spitser’s body was found.

The investigations at the scene of the explosion by Laurel County Sheriff’s Detective Charlie Loomis and Kentucky State Police Arson Investigator Brian Lewis determined Spitser apparently set fire to the apartment where he lived, then set fire to the vehicle he was sitting in. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The explosion on Thursday brought emergency personnel to the scene on Dorthea Road after a meter reader for Kentucky Utilities heard the explosion and contacted 9-1-1.

The force of the explosion ripped chunks of brick exterior off the home while the flames burned the grass in the front and side of the duplex where Spitser lived.

Firefighters from West Knox and Lily Volunteer Fire Departments worked diligently to extinguish the flames that ripped through the structure, frequently re-igniting. Even while the firefighters fought the blaze, large pieces of the roof fell around them.

After the fire was finally under control, both apartments of the duplex were a total loss. But a search of the area revealed the badly burned body of Spitser sitting inside the torched Dodge Neon that was parked in the rear of the residence under a carport.

The three residents of the other apartment stood helplessly on the roadway, watching as their belongings literally went up in flames. Those residents had three dogs, two of which were soon seen running around the area and then taken by their owners for safekeeping as the firefighting efforts continued.

After the flames were extinguished and a final search of the area was completed, a firefighter emerged from the debris with a pet kennel that contained the third dog of the residents who had also survived the fire unharmed.

Another dog at the residence, which reportedly belonged to Spitser, was taken into custody by an observer to the scene, and was later given back to family members.