Victim in deadly house fire had stab wounds that were likely self-inflicted

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (EAU CLAIRE POLICE DEPARTMENT NEWS RELEASE) - On October 1, 2012, Eau Claire Police and Fire were called to 3631 E. Hamilton Avenue for a report of a structure fire. Upon arrival, fire personnel located one of the homeowners, Cheryl M. Lechner, in the basement of the residence. She was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The Eau Claire Police Department worked in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation to process the scene and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire and the death of Cheryl Lechner.

On October 2, 2012, an autopsy was performed by forensic pathologists at the Regina Medical Center in Hastings, Minnesota. The preliminary results of the autopsy indicated the cause of death to be carbon monoxide poisoning. The manner of death officially remains undetermined pending examination results of the evidence that was gathered by investigators and submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab.

The autopsy did reveal that Cheryl Lechner had two wounds located in the area beneath her left breast. The first was a superficial hesitation wound. The second was a puncture wound that was just below the first and horizontal in nature. Additionally, both of these wounds were found underneath her clothing, not the result of an instrument penetrating through her clothing. These wounds were not the cause of Cheryl Lechner’s death. According to the forensic pathologists, the evidence examined to date is consistent with self-inflicted injuries. Furthermore, interviews conducted by investigators provided corroborating information that also fit with the probability of Lechner’s injuries being a result of a self-inflicted act.

Neither the Eau Claire Police Department nor the Eau Claire County Medical Examiner’s Office has made a final determination as to the overall disposition of this case. A final determination will only be made once all of the evidence has been thoroughly examined by the crime lab and reviewed by the investigators assigned to this case.


EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – A new report on an October 1 house fire shows a woman who died of carbon monoxide poisoning also had a stab wound to the chest when she was found.

Investigators found the body of Cheryl Lechner, 47 in the basement of the home on Hamilton Avenue in Eau Claire.

WEAU 13 News obtained the report Thursday after submitting an open records request to the Eau Claire Fire Department. It shows that the stab wound was a half-inch to an inch long, but that she was not bleeding when crews got to the house.

The report goes on to say that the fire started in a room along a south wall of the basement, but that it did not spread to the first floor. It also says an investigator saw unusual burn patterns along the basement floor.

The report did not indicate what caused the fire. At last report, investigators had sent samples to a crime lab and were waiting for results.