Police ID grandmother killed in house fire on Fernwood Avenue

Created: 07/09/2014 5:57 PM WHEC.com
By: Rachel Spotts

A grandmother, watching her grandchildren, was killed in a house fire. Investigators say 52-year-old Winnie Butler, of Rochester, was with her four grandchildren inside the home on Fernwood Avenue Tuesday evening. The children made it out safely.

Almost 24 hours after the fire, investigators are still taking evidence from the home and securing the scene. This had News10NBC asking, was this fire more than a tragic accident?

Lt. Frank Umbrino, Rochester Police Major Crimes Unit, said, “It's obviously a fatal fire, so we have to be thorough to make sure that we know exactly what happened. We're still trying to figure that out.”

Almost a dozen bags of potential evidence have been collected. Rochester Police are searching for clues about what happened in the moments leading up to the deadly fire on Fernwood Avenue. Authorities say 52-year-old Winnie Butler was babysitting her four grandchildren when the fire broke out Tuesday night. Everyone made it out safely, except Butler, who was later found by firefighters in the bedroom where the fire started. Now police are waiting to hear from the medical examiner on a cause of death.

Lt. Frank Umbrino said, “Hopefully, that'll give us some more insight into what happened. The arson investigators will be back out here as well.”

It is an ongoing investigation. The house is blocked off from the public. It has neighbors talking. News10NBC spoke with two men who live nearby. They didn’t want to be identified, but they told us what they saw.

“A gentleman comes out of the house with a couple kids and the next thing you know the fire department is showing up.”

“It was a little odd because he told my neighbor he got everybody out. Obviously, they pulled a body out last night.”

Police say the investigation continues. It all comes down to the cause of death, which the medical examiner should have by Thursday.

The Red Cross is providing the family with emergency shelter. Police say the owner of the home, Ebony Whitaker, and her four children are in temporary housing.

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