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Man suffers third-degree burns in suspicious Ashtabula fire

By:  Star Beacon - Margie Trax Page

A 59-year-old Ashtabula man was burned Saturday night under “suspicious circumstances,” the Ashtabula Fire Department reports.

William Roberts, of 4708 Fern Ave., suffered third degree burns on his right arm, wife Connie Roberts said Sunday.

While Connie Roberts reports her husband was intoxicated and severely depressed when he set himself on fire in the dining room of the white house, fire investigators say William Roberts “denied the burn was accidental or self-inflicted,” fire reports show.

William Roberts was transported by ambulance to the Ashtabula County Medical Center and then transferred to the Cleveland Metro Health Medical Center, fire reports show.

Connie Roberts also was transported to ACMC by ambulance for the treatment of diabetic shock, she said.

Neighbors said the smell of burned flesh filled the streets Saturday night and Sunday and rumors flew about the suspicious circumstances and ongoing investigation. Connie Roberts and another family still live in the house, which they say was not damaged by the fire.

Ashtabula Fire Lt. Shawn Gruber said the fire, and William Roberts’ burns, are still considered suspicious and also confirmed there are several “persons of interest” in the case.

“The fire is still under investigation,” he said.

The Ashtabula Police Department and investigators from the Ashtabula Division of Fire are looking into the cause and circumstances of the incident, fire reports show.

Connie Roberts said no one else was injured Saturday night.

“My husband, he gets drunk and he has a death wish,” she said. “He gets suicidal. There isn’t anything anyone can do to stop him when he gets like that.”

The Roberts’, who moved into the house a month ago, have been married for 21 years.

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