WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Coroner William Lisman said he is amending the manner of death for Laurie Merritt from accidental to pending after meeting with authorities Wednesday morning.
Merritt, 51, died at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital on April 15 after city firefighters found her unresponsive in the crawl space attic of her home at 276 Wyoming St., Wilkes-Barre, just after 11 p.m. on April 14.
An autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Ross found Merritt died from carbon monoxide intoxication due to a fire. The manner of death was pending until May 19, when Lisman listed it as accidental on Merritt’s death certificate.
State police at Wyoming on Tuesday issued a news release saying the fire was intentionally set, raising questions about Merritt’s accidental death.
After the state police news release was issued, District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis scheduled a meeting held Wednesday morning with state police deputy fire marshals, city police detectives and Lisman to review the findings of all the agencies to determine how two different conclusions were reached.
Lisman said Wednesday afternoon he will issue a new death certificate for Merritt listing the cause of death as “pending.”
The coroner explained he was not “privy” to information from state police fire marshals and city police about the ongoing investigation when he initially issued Merritt’s death certificate on May 19.
Salavantis could not be reached for comment.
City police have obtained search warrants for cellphone records of Merritt and her former boyfriend, Paul Kosakowski, 60, a former Wilkes-Barre Township police detective. Merritt’s family and neighbors identified Kosakowski as Merritt’s former boyfriend, according to search warrant affidavits.
When Merritt was found in the attic, firefighters found an Apple iPhone next to her. The iPhone was locked and password protected.
Police obtained a search warrant on Tuesday to compel Apple to turn over Merritt’s cellphone records.
Affidavits say Kosakowski told police he spoke with Merritt on the phone at about 10:20 p.m. on April 14. He allegedly told police Merritt said to him she was “going to her attic to get stuff,” the affidavits say.
The affidavits say Kosakowski told police he received a call from Merritt’s neighbor at about 11:31 p.m. saying Merritt’s house was on fire. Kosakowski said he was at his house in Wilkes-Barre Township when he received the call from the neighbor.