OCALA — A man found dead his residence by a friend earlier this year was not a victim of foul play but died after inhaling smoke and soot, according to a report on the incident.
Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigator Tommy E. Pudlo ruled Willis Eugene Tenbroeck’s death an accident and found no signs of suspicious activity that would lead to arson.
In his report, Pudlo concluded that the fire originated between a living room chair and an electric space heater. The investigator believes the fire may have been caused by multiple cigarette butts in an ashtray.
While looking for clues, Pudlo said in his report, he found evidence of a previous fire in the living room. One of Tenbroeck’s friends told sheriff’s officials that Tenbroeck had previously fallen asleep with a lit cigarette that ignited a couch and damaged the floor.
Tenbroeck, 75, was found dead by a friend inside his two-bedroom, one-bath mobile home at Dogwood Acres Mobile Home Park, 2450 SW 38th Ave., the morning of Feb. 17.
Frank Imparato, Tenbroeck’s friend, told the Star-Banner that he went to the man’s home to make him an omelet when he saw a window curtain that looked burned. Imparato said he forced his way into the home through the front door and found Tenbroeck dead in his bed.
Marion County Fire Rescue paramedics who responded to the home pronounced Tenbroeck dead at 9:11 a.m.
According to the Medical Examiner's Office report, Tenbroeck’s cause of death was listed as smoke inhalation and soot because of a structure fire and the manner of death was an accident.
Marion County Sheriff’s Detective Billy Burleson, one of several detectives called to the scene, noted in his report that they were no visible signs of trauma on Tenbroeck’s body. Based on evidence gathered at the scene, it appeared the man woke up and was overcome with smoke and grabbed at the wall.
Christine Rodriguez, a MCSO detective, was told by a neighbor of Tenbroeck's that the last time she saw him was around 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 when he was driving from the mobile home park. She said she never saw him return.
A couple told Rodriguez they saw Tenbroeck driving from the mobile home park the morning of Feb. 16. At least two other neighbors saw Tenbroeck the day before his body was discovered.
Imparato told the detective he saw his friend around 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 16 and brought him breakfast. He said Tenbroeck told him he was not feeling well and was going to bed. Imparato said he went to work until 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. He said when he got home, he noticed his friend was asleep and did not bother him. It was the last time he would see him alive.
Imparato told the Star-Banner at the time that his friend was a loner who never bothered anyone. He said Tenbroeck was a good guy who was kind and would usually sit at the front door watching television.
Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118, firstname.lastname@example.org or @almillerosb.