Eau Claire Police release name, cause of death in East Hamilton death investigation

By: WEAU 13 News Staff Email
By: WEAU 13 News Staff Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – We now know the name of the woman who died in a mysterious fire at her Eau Claire home.

But still some questions remain.

The Eau Claire Police Department has identified that woman as 47-year-old Cheryl M. Lechner.

Officers said she died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Firefighters rushed to the house on East Hamilton Avenue around 1:30 p.m. Monday after a neighbor said she saw smoke coming from inside.

When firefighters got there they found Lechner but were unable to bring her back to life.

Officers said the fire started in the basement and that's where the woman was found by firefighters.

While we know she died from carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s still not known how the fire started or if Lechner's death is suspicious or accidental.

Tuesday night, WEAU cameras were rolling as police swarmed the Lechner's family business down the street from the home.

Officers took four to five computers from Wolverine Lube.

ECPD Officer Kyle Roder said the computers could hold key pieces of evidence.

“As we all know, a lot of evidence can be stored, a lot of data can be stored on those. And we can get a better pictures, not only of evidence, but also for time logs and time lines of who was using the computer and things like that,” Officer Roder said.

After detectives left the scene Tuesday night, a chain-link fence was put up surrounding the house.

Police said they've cleared the property back to the family and that's where the fence could have come from.
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (NEWS RELEASE) - On Monday, October 1, 2012, at 1:26 p.m. Eau Claire Police and Fire were called to 3631 E. Hamilton Avenue for a report of a structure fire at that residence. Upon arrival, Eau Claire Fire Department personnel observed and controlled a working fire located in the basement of the residence. A lone adult female was also located inside the residence. Eau Claire Fire / Rescue ultimately determined that the female could not be resuscitated. No one else was inside the residence at that time.
Eau Claire Police also responded to the scene and secured the area surrounding the residence. Investigators from the Eau Claire Police Department Detective Division, the Eau Claire Fire Inspector and the Eau Claire County Medical Examiner arrived on scene and began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fire and the death of the female inside.

The deceased has been identified as:

Cheryl M. Lechner
47 years old
3631 E. Hamilton Avenue
Eau Claire, WI

Over the past two days, investigators from the Eau Claire Police Department, the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with members of the Eau Claire Police Department Crime Scene Unit have worked to conduct interviews, gather physical evidence and piece together important information pertaining to this case. Both the residence at 3631 E. Hamilton Avenue and the business located nearby at 3407 E. Hamilton Avenue are owned by the Lechner family. As a result, both locations have been included in our overall case investigation.

On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, an autopsy was performed by forensic pathologists at the Regina Medical Center in Hastings, Minnesota. The preliminary results of the autopsy indicate the following:

Cause of Death: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Manner of Death: Undetermined pending further investigation

At this time, the cause of the fire is also undetermined pending additional investigation. This case remains an open investigation and continues to be actively investigated by the Eau Claire Police Department Detective Division and the Wisconsin Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigation.

The Eau Claire Police Department would like to thank the following agencies for their assistance in various aspects of this case:
Eau Claire Fire Department
Wisconsin Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigation
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Regina Medical Center – MN Regional Medical Examiner’s Office
City of Eau Claire Street Maintenance Department
Eau Claire County Medical Examiner’s Office
Lenmark Gomsrud Linn Funeral Home
We also appreciate the cooperativeness of the neighbors and community members and thank you for your patience and understanding while we continue to investigate this matter.

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- "It's pretty crazy to see all this happening," said Nolan Fadness.

In the course of a couple days, his neighborhood has gone from a quiet place to the center of a big investigation.

"I guess you see this kind of stuff on the news and TV shows but you never expect it to happen pretty much right in your backyard," Fadness added.

On Tuesday, police continued searching the house near his. That is where a mysterious house fire happened Monday and a woman was found dead inside.

"We do have investigators in Minnesota where an autopsy is being performed," said Kyle Roder, with the Eau Claire Police Department.

Police are not releasing details about the woman, where she was found, or where the fire started.

One neighbor we talked with Monday says he saw water shooting out of the basement at one point.

Meanwhile, investigators continued searching the property and the area around it.

On Tuesday, that included Wolverine Lube. At about 5:00, when leaving the scene of the fire, we saw officers and detectives swarming the business. While there, they took about four to five computers away.

"I'm not sure. It's a very big puzzle. I've lived here now for years in these condos and I've always felt very safe and now there's a lot of action going on," said Jenny Von Bargen.

Von Bargen is not used to all this activity in the neighborhood either. She is waiting to learn more about what happened Monday at her neighbor's house on East Hamilton.

"It's a puzzle, so I hope the answers come out very soon," she added.

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Police have now re-opened eastbound Hamilton Avenue in Eau Claire as they continue investigating a house fire and the death of a woman.

Crews re-opened the stretch of road between Alf and Miller Streets just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

It had been closed for more than 24 hours as police scoured the area for clues.

An Eau Claire Police Department spokesman told WEAU 13 News late Tuesday afternoon that the department had not received results of an autopsy on the woman whose body was found in the house. The spokesman says the department is finishing its search of the home. It's hoping for results of the autopsy tonight or tomorrow.

Also new Tuesday, WEAU had the only cameras honed in on a local business near the home where the woman was found.

Wolverine Lube is located at East Hamilton and Miller.

WEAU cameras captured police taking out 4 or 5 computer towers.

(See video of this by click above on the following: NEW INFORMATION: Police re-open eastbound Hamilton as fire, death investigation continues 6PM - click VIDEO REPORT above)

Police say the business and those computers could be connected to the investigation.

Stay with WEAU 13 News and WEAU.com for more information as it becomes available.
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Eau Claire, Wis. (WEAU) -- An investigation into a house fire in Southeast Eau Claire continues.

The fire at 3631 E. Hamilton Ave was called in Monday.

Inside the home, emergency crews found a female body.

Tuesday, an autopsy was planned in Minnesota.

As the investigation continues, the Eau Claire Police Department says they are still unsure when East Hamilton Ave will be re-opened.

Police will be searching the home. They'll also do an outside search of the neighborhood.

It's unclear how long police will remain on the scene.

Previous story:

"We left about 9 Monday morning and haven't been back so we were surprised," said Don Nelson, who lives on E. Hamilton Avenue in Eau Claire.

Nelson and his family were gone all day. But when they got back home, their street was closed off. Police and fire crews were investigating a fire at a neighbor's home, and a woman was found dead inside.

"We walked down that direction to see what was happening and one of the police officers said we can't go any further because this is a crime scene.

They do not know much about the person who lived there, only seeing a woman out in the winter.

"Once in a while she's out shoveling the driveway," he said.

Up the road, Brian Johnson lives near the backside of the house that caught fire.

"By the time I walked in the backyard I saw water shoot out of the basement.

Johnson says his neighbor is the one who called 911. We tried reaching that neighbor but they were not home. Johnson says seeing all the yellow tape is surprising but does not faze him.

"I don't know if there was a crime scene or not, they're investigating and maybe someone was smoking, could have been a heater," Johnson said.

Neither Johnson, nor his son Marc knew much about who lives there, but Marc Johnson says judging by everything he has seen in the garage while walking the neighborhood, the fire could have been worse.

"Tires, oil, you name it, and they had a fire previously," Marc Johnson added.

As for the safety of the neighborhood, Don Nelson checks the crime reports monthly, and says his neighborhood has always been a safe place to live.

"It seems like there's very little happening," he added.

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Eau Claire police were on the scene of a house fire where a body was recovered.

Investigators have blocked off several streets on on the city's southeast side.

Police say the fire happened at a house on East Hamilton Avenue.

As of 6:19 p.m., only the eastbound lane of Hamilton was closed near the scene.

Police say a female body was found inside.

Investigators do not know if the woman lived at the address or was visiting, or exactly why she was there.

Community Outreach Officer Kyle Roder told WEAU.com Fire teams would be investigating the cause of the fire, while police and fire would work to find out the cause of death.

A tweet from the Eau Claire Police Department reads "Structure fire at 3631 E. Hamilton Ave. Officers are diverting traffic around that area. Use caution and avoid the area."

Stay with WEAU 13 News and WEAU.com for more on this breaking story.


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