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Body discovered at house fire
Authorities say death most likely was a suicide
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Extensive damage is evident from a fire at a home on 71st Avenue in Pinellas Park Saturday morning. A woman’s body was found inside. Authorities believe she set the fire before committing suicide.
PINELLAS PARK – Authorities believe that a Pinellas Park woman intentionally set her house on fire before shooting herself early Saturday morning.

According to a report from police, the District 6 Medical Examiner will determine the exact cause of death of Brigitta K. Melm, 61.

Pinellas Park Fire Department responded to a structure fire at 7600 71st Ave. about 6 a.m. Saturday, July 26. Shortly thereafter, Pinellas Park police were notified that a body had been found inside the single-family residence. Firefighters put out the fire and remained on scene while police entered the home to begin an investigation.

Police soon found out that two men, who knew the victim, had arrived prior to the firefighters. The two men had attempted unsuccessfully to put out the fire before one of the men tried to remove the woman from the home. He was overcome by smoke and had to leave the home.

Police entered the home and found that the roof had partially collapsed on the east side. They found the woman’s body in the living room.

“Due to the obvious trauma and evidence that the fire was not the cause of the injuries to the female, a decision was made to call out detectives to continue the investigation,” said Sgt. Adam Geissenberger, Pinellas Park police public information officer.

When detectives arrived at the scene, they saw evidence that led them to believe that the female was the victim of a “violent act.”

“The determination was made at that time to treat the fire as a crime scene and that the death of the woman would be investigated as a homicide,” Geissenberger wrote in his media release.

Detectives and crime scene personnel started to collect evidence at the crime scene. The state fire marshal and Pinellas Park fire inspector assisted in the investigation. The medical examiner was also called to the scene.

Detectives and the medical examiner did a physical examination of the victim and determined that she had a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“It is now believed that the fire was intentionally set by the woman shortly before she took her own life,” Geissenberger said.

The woman owned several cats, which were not in the house at the time of the fire. Police think that the woman placed the cats in a shelter. One cat was left on the doorstep of a neighbor and a note was left nearby. Another note was found inside of a vehicle owned by the woman. “Neither note offered any insight as to why the fire was set,” Geissenberger said. “An autopsy will be required to determine the actual cause of death. There is no reason for investigators to believe this was anything more than a suicide.”

Updated to include identity of victim.
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