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Police: Sandusky house fire scene of murder

Courtney Astolfi • Dec 8, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Those who knew George Martin, 86, described him as a kind and caring man who made it a point to help others.

The seemingly normal life he led was a stark contrast to his brutal end. His killer remains unidentified and on the loose, although late Wednesday police said they had talked to “some people of interest” “Something will crack eventually,” Sandusky police Chief John Orzech said of his department’s investigation.


Firefighters descended on the home of George and Florence Martin, at 2201 Campbell St., at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to find flames pouring from the back of the house.    


They scoured the home and soon found Martin’s body on the basement floor. There were multiple stab wounds on his partially-burned body, Sandusky police detective Dana Newell said.

“It was apparent the man was killed and the house was set on fire,” Newell said.

Newell would not specify the number of stab wounds, or the location of the wounds on the body. He also refused to say if there were defensive wounds.

He simply offered a single word to describe the crime scene: “Violent”

Police currently have no suspects, but evidence found in the home has provided some direction in the investigation, Newell said.

“We don’t want to eliminate anything, but our first indication is the victim possibly knew the culprit,” he said.

Officers found no signs of forced entry into the home, indicating Martin may have willingly allowed the assailant to enter, Newell said, adding that preliminary evidence found at the scene supports this conclusion.

The suspected murder weapon has not been found. Police swabbed for trace amounts of DNA evidence, which they sent to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for testing. It could be weeks before those test results are returned.

“We’ll send that in to be tested, and we’ll continue following up on every possible lead we get,” Newell said. “We’re not going to just sit and wait on DNA. You still have to do the old-school police work”

On Wednesday, detectives worked to interview Martin’s family, neighbors and acquaintances. They searched the areas surrounding the home, giving everything a second inspection in the daylight.

Officers are also working to check the alibis of people they’ve interviewed.

Investigators hope to receive autopsy results sometime today from the Lucas County coroner’s office. Also killed during the incident was the Martins’ dog, which died as a result of the fire, Newell said.

Neighbors and officials alike are stumped by the grisly death.

“He was known to be friendly,” Newell said. “He always helped people”

Sibyl Dendinger, Martin’s neighbor, said she would wave to Martin in the mornings as he set out for his daily stroll at the Sandusky Mall.

“He drove by yesterday in his little truck and did his usual wave,” Dendinger said. That was her last interaction with him.

After Sandusky firefighters extinguished the blaze Tuesday night, they quickly found suspicious circumstances that pointed to arson, Sandusky fire Chief Paul Ricci said.

In surveying the home, Sandusky fire Capt. Mario D’Amico found three separate points of origin where someone lit three individual fires, Ricci said.

One began in the basement, where Martin was found. A second was found in a bedroom toward the front of the home. A third was found in a small bedroom near the back of the home, directly above the basement, Ricci said.

Investigators quickly called in Ohio BCI agents, as well as the Ohio State Fire Marshal. Crews worked through Wednesday morning, processing the home and its contents, neighbors said.

The fire marshal has since issued a $5,000 reward to anyone with information about the case, Orzech said.

Two women who knew Martin from the neighborhood have scheduled a candlelight vigil for 7 p.m. Saturday.

“Everyone in that neighborhood takes care of each other,” organizer Denise Wyatt said.

“We’re hoping people will come out and support Mrs. Martin and her family. We’re hoping the community can rise above” organizer Emily Barton said.

The vigil will be on Grant Street, between Campbell and Sherman streets, Barton said. Organizers are still awaiting official approval from the city to close down the road for the service.

Anyone with information in the case can call Sandusky police at 419-627-5877

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