FAIRFIELD — In addition to releasing the identity of the victim in a July 9 fire Friday, new details were made public earlier this week about events surrounding the fire at a Pleasants Valley Road nursery.
The body of Robert L. Thomas III, 43, was found by firefighters at the Mercier grapevines nursery. Firefighters found his badly burned body after they had doused the fire.
A neighbor near the winery was awakened at 3:07 a.m. by a nearby explosion and saw a tractor shed and storage room on fire, according to court records.
The neighbor then saw two women and a man yelling at each other a short distance from the fire. The neighbor tried to confront the three strangers, but they ignored him and got into a black vehicle and drove off before firefighters and sheriff’s deputies arrived at the fire. The vehicle had blue-and-white dealer placards instead of license plates.
Investigators found a deck of charred playing cards and the end cap from a highway flare amid the burned debris, according to court records.
Thomas’ death was declared a homicide earlier this week. Investigators have deemed the fire as “suspicious” but so far will only posit that it “may be human caused.”
Thomas had a long local criminal history including more than 11 arrests since 2000. He is an ex-con who has been to prison twice and was on parole at the time of his death.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.