Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Search warrant filed in fatal Wilkes-Barre fire

April 22. 2014 1:35PM

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WILKES-BARRE — City police obtained cell phone records of Paul Kosakowski to determine if he was in contact with Laurie Merritt, 51, before she died in a fire at her Wyoming Street house last week, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Merritt was found unresponsive by city firefighters in the crawl space attic of her home at 276 Wyoming St. on April 14. She died at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital less than an hour after she was found in her burning home.

An autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Ross determined Merritt died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to the search warrant affidavit, neighbors led police to Kosakowski whom they identified as Merritt’s boyfriend.

Kosakowski allegedly told police he spoke on the phone with Merritt at about 7 p.m. on April 14. He claimed she called him at his residence in Wilkes-Barre Township at 10:20 p.m. but he missed the call.

Kosakowski said he immediately called Merritt saying she told him she was “going to her attic to get stuff,” the affidavit says.

The affidavit says Kosakowski told police he received a call from Merritt’s neighbor at about 11:31 p.m. on April 14 saying Merritt’s house was on fire. Kosakowski said he was at his house when he received the call from the neighbor.

Police obtained two search warrants for Kosakowski’s cell phone records to determine if his statements about the phone calls are true and the location of his cell phone when he made and received phone calls from Merritt.

City fire inspector Capt. Alan Klapat and state police deputy fire marshal Trooper Ron Jarocha are investigating the cause of the fire. Klapat said late Monday that the investigation into the cause is on-going.

Merritt was a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

Early Monday night, letter carriers marched from the Post Office on South Main Street to the John Morris Funeral Home on North Main Street where Merritt’s viewing was held.

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