Police Continue to Investigate Homicide/Arson

Firefighters at the scene of a blaze where the bodies of three people were found on Feb. 1.

By Linda CicoiraThe fire scene where three people died in Nelsonia on Feb. 1 “had a strong smell of petroleum distillates,” which could include gasoline, naphtha, mineral spirits, kerosene, paraffin wax, and tar, a court document filed recently states. A knife handle and fire debris samples were confiscated from the area.

The fire, at a mobile home park on Johnson Court, was declared arson and the three family members were found by a state medical examiner to have died from stab wounds. 

Wilson L. Escalante-Perez, 24, and his sister-in-law, Oraliz Alejandra Gonzalez-Miranda, 26, both died from stab wounds to the chest. The woman’s 3-year-old daughter, Daniella Escalante-Gonzales, identified by her grandfather as Sophia Escalante, died from stabs wounds to the chest and abdomen. 

The deaths of the mother and child were ruled homicide. The manner of death for Wilson Escalante-Perez is still pending, Alvin Hopson, of the medical examiner’s office, said Wednesday.

State police are continuing to investigate the deaths and fire. A search warrant for the woman’s cell phone was obtained since “arson is used to conceal other crimes” and “victims often know and are in communications with their attacker … cellphone data can provide locations where the victim frequently visited the people they were in frequent communication with, as well as the last people they spoke to over the phone. These people can be visited and persons interviewed as witnesses/suspects.”

The search warrant asked for all records connected to the phone and stated the offense as “murder 1st degree” and “burning of an occupied dwelling.”

Other residents of the trailer were not home when the crimes occurred. They include Feliciano Ortiz and his wife, Celestina Perez (mother of Wilson Perez), and Yener Perez, the girl’s father. Other children who lived at the residence are ages 17, 13, and 7 and were in school when the fire was reported at 10 a.m. The home was destroyed.

Anyone with information about the fire or the decedents is asked to call the state police at 757-424-6800, or #77 on a cell phone, or by emailing [email protected]

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