Death connected to Homewood fire ruled a homicide

This story was updated at 4:25 p.m. Feb. 22, 2019.

Homewood police say the death of 78-year-old James Kerrigan, found after a house fire in Homewood, has been ruled a homicide by the Cook County Medical Examiner. The South Suburban Major Crimes Taskforce and Homewood police continue to investigate.

The fire remains under investigation by the Illinois Fire Marshal, according to Homewood Fire Chief Bob Grabowski, who said the agency is called in whenever there is a fatality connected to a fire. 

Grabowski said it appears Kerrigan was the only occupant of the two-story house. Firefighters extinguished the fire "pretty quickly," he said. The structure was saved, but the interior was a total loss, Grabowski said.

Homewood police officers searched around the home and in nearby Woodborough Park following the incident.

Don Buros, who said he and Kerrigan had been friends for 40 years, was at the scene after the fire. The Park Forest resident said he gave Kerrigan a ride to a doctor's appointment about a week ago. When they returned, Buros said there was a teenager walking out of Kerrigan's house, which he said had an alarm system.

Buros said he and Kerrigan followed the person, but he jumped a fence and got away. They called the police, who weren't able to locate the teen. Nothing was stolen from Kerrigan's house.

Firefighters found the body of a Homewood resident while responding to a fire Wednesday night at 1000 block of 185th St.

Fire Chief Bob Grabowski said the call came in about 8:45 p.m., but he said there was little information he could release because the fire and death were under investigation. 

  Firefighters work in the aftermath of a fire 
  Wednesday night in Homewood that claimed 
  the resident.
(Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

As is common practice when there is a fatality in a fire, the state fire marshal's office was notified, he said. A vehicle with fire marshal markings arrived at the scene shortly after 10:20 p.m.

A neighbor, Connie Wright, said she was notified by a police officer shortly before 9 p.m. that the house next to hers was on fire and that she should evacuate. 

She said an older man lived alone in the home next door.

More information to follow.

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