Madison Heights Man Found Dead in Suspicious Fire – UPDATED

Madison Heights Man Found Dead in Suspicious Fire

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 1, 2015)


Madison Heights Police are investigating a suspicious house fire that occurred at about 1am on Nov. 1 in the 30000 block of Groveland. A man was found dead inside the home.

Deputy Police Chief Corey Haines released a statement saying the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department Arson Investigation Team is part of the investigation, and more details will be released as they become available.

Police will not confirm the identity of the victim, but family members on the scene say that the victim is Fernando Gonzales, a man in his late 50s who has lived at the home since the late 1990s.

“I’m dumbfounded right now,” said brother-in-law Van Welch. “This was so hard to wake up to. He was the nicest person, no enemies that I know of. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Welch said Gonzales was a licensed barber with lots of clients. “People would come all the way from Chicago to have my brother-in-law cut their hair,” he said. “I wish you could meet him. No one would ever want to hurt him.”

Neighbors said Gonzales was friendly to everyone, and often had neighbors over to visit. He lived alone, but was welcoming of everyone, they say. “He’s been my neighbor 15 years,” said a woman who lived next door. “Every year he would do something new to his house, a project.”

Another woman, who did not want to be identified, said she heard banging on the door and rescue workers asking if anyone was home. She went outside to see what was going on. “I saw the garage was open and the car was gone, and I thought, ‘oh good,’ at least he’s not home. A house and things can be replaced, but not a person.’ Then later they pulled out the body and I thought maybe it was his dog. I did not even think it could be him. I still can’t think that it was him I saw.”

According to the neighbor, her husband identified Gonzales’ body. Neighbors and family say the car, a black Accura, is missing and that the garage door was open. The police will are not commenting on this however, since the investigation is ongoing.

A man who lives in the home behind stated that someone tried to break into his house one week ago.  A brand new window had just been installed, with the sticker still on it.  The man, who did not want to give his name, said that around 1am he heard pounding and glass breaking, and that his dog has scared away the would-be intruder.  He said that he did not call the police because nothing was stolen and he was not sure how complicated it would be to have police involved.   It is unclear if this break-in attempt is related to the situation on Groveland.

UPDATE: Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office has listed the cause of death as strangulation. The Daily Tribune reports that the stolen Accura was recovered Monday morning.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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