The deaths of a 32-year-old woman and her three-year-old son in a Scotch Plains house fire on Tuesday evening have been ruled a homicide/suicide by the Scotch Plains Police Department along with the Union County Homicide Task Force, after an investigation revealed rags doused with an accelerant were blocking the door to a bedroom.
An autopsy revealed this morning that the victims, Katherine Halverson, 32, and her son Jeremy McDonald Jr., 3, died of smoke inhalation.
According to Scotch Plains Police Chief Brian Mahoney, the investigation revealed the mother had blocked the door to a second floor bedroom and placed rags doused with an unknown accelerant in front of the door, Mahoney said. He added that matches were also found near the area of the fire.
When fire fighters arrived at the scene they had to force entry into the home and again into the bedroom. The fire was concentrated on the backside of the door of the second floor bedroom, Mahoney said. Additionally, when fire fighters entered the room they found both victims lying on the floor unresponsive.
Officials said that Halverson appeared in family court on Monday, Dec. 17, but declined to provide further information on her appearance. They added that custody issues exist between Halverson and Jeremy’s father.
There appears to be no suicide note left at the scene, or any motive at this time, law enforcement officials said.
Updated 12:25 a.m.
The 32-year-old woman and her 3-year-old son who lived in the Church Avenue home were pronounced dead at Overlook Hospital in Summit late Tuesday evening, according to Police Chief Brian Mahoney of the Scotch Plains Police Department.
Mahoney added that the family dog was also killed in the fire.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by Scotch Plains detectives along with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
The causes of death are believed to be related to the fire, but are officially pending autopsy results.
The exact time the fire broke out is unknown, but firefighters arrived at the scene around 7:15 p.m. According to Mahoney and neighbors, firefighters had to force entry into the left side of the duplex in order to gain access into the home.
A child and woman were injured in a fire on the 1900 block of Church Avenue in Scotch Plains which broke out around 7:15 on Tuesday evening.
Officials told the Star-Ledger that the child and woman suffered serious injuries. Police and emergency officials have yet to inform Patch of the extent of the injuries sustained.
A crew from the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad, an arson investigation unit as well as crews from the county were on the scene.
The fire, which occurred in a two-family house, was brought under control by fire crews from Scotch Plains and Fanwood. The fire seems to have been located on the second story of the home.
When Patch arrived on scene at 7:45 p.m. the fire was extinguished and the injured victims were already transported to the hospital. However, all firefighters and rescue squad members were still on the scene checking the interior and structure of the home.
At 9:10 p.m. firefighters and the rescue squad were still on the scene, as well as a detective and arson investigator.
For several hours, portions of Park Avenue were blocked off between Portland Avenue and East 2nd Street and Church Avenue was blocked off completely.
Patch will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.