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Archive for Wednesday, December 1, 1993

MAN KILLED IN N. LAWRENCE FIRE

December 1, 1993

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Authorities were working early this afternoon to determine the cause of a fire that killed an unidentified man.

A fire early today destroyed a North Lawrence residence and killed an unidentified man, authorities reported today.

And while fire investigators dug through blackened debris at the residence, 230 Locust, the brother of a man who owned the property and stayed there periodically waited for word on whether the owner was still alive.

Firefighters were called at 2:48 a.m. to the residence by a neighbor, Cheryl Miller, 228 Locust. The first crews on the scene reported that the 1 1/2-story home, owned by Leroy Walburn, was engulfed in flames when they arrived.

After firefighters declared the fire under control at 3:18 a.m., a crew searched the residence and found a man's body, burned beyond recognition.

The body was taken to Dr. Carol Moddrell, Douglas County coroner, for an autopsy that was being conducted late this morning.

"We're waiting to get some information from the family that we can take to the coroner in order to get a positive identification," said Rich Barr, Lawrence fire marshal.

Barr said investigators had been unable to determine the cause of the blaze.

Walburn's brother, Lawrence resident John Walburn, said late this morning that he had not heard from Leroy Walburn.

"I'm just sitting by the phone, waiting," John Walburn said. "I'm hoping for the best."

An employee at FMC Corp., 440 N. Ninth, where Leroy Walburn's neighbors said he was employed, said Leroy Walburn did not report to work today.

Miller said Leroy Walburn stays off-and-on at the residence, which also houses his business, Walburn's Furniture, where he refinishes antiques.

The property had been in disrepair since June 21, when a delivery truck slammed into the house, knocking out a chimney, twisting the roof and causing the ceiling to sag.

Miller said she called 911 after waking up and seeing an orange glow through her east windows. About 20 minutes later, she said, she began hearing explosions, presumably as cans of refinishing material ignited.

"That's when the firefighters came to the door and said, 'You're going to have to leave, ma'am,'" she said. "That was really scary."

Miller said heat from the blaze damaged siding, windows and shingles on her home. Firefighters estimated damage to her home at $3,000.

Leroy Walburn's house was destroyed, firefighters said. Damage was estimated at $20,000.

Also damaged were a trailer and a 1972 Buick Skylark parked outside the house. Damage to the trailer and car were listed together on a fire department report at $2,000.

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