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Martin County Fla--Police Investigating Fatal House Fire

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  • Martin County Fla--Police Investigating Fatal House Fire

    Police investigating deadly trailer fire

    By Jill Taylor, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, August 17, 2003

    A Tropical Farms woman died Saturday after she was trapped in her burning mobile home in what investigators are calling a suspicious fire.

    Wendy May Weller, 49, a cancer survivor who recently completed chemotherapy, was found dead in a bedroom where the fire apparently started sometime after 5 p.m.

    Witnesses said her boyfriend, Gregory Todd Canham, 33, first tried to put out the blaze with a garden hose and then tried to create an escape hole for her by crashing his small Chevrolet pickup truck against the outside wall.

    "He was yelling to her to get out," neighbor Thomas Mazza said. "But there was no hope."

    Weller's bedroom was in an addition built on to the old trailer at 7890 Parkway Drive, neighbors said.

    "There was only one way into that addition and it was covered with flames," said James Knight, who lives in a mobile home behind the trailer that burned. "The whole thing was done in about two minutes."

    Firefighters found Canham, coated with black soot and slumped over the wheel of his truck, having failed to penetrate the burning trailer.

    He was treated at the scene and then taken to the Martin County Sheriff's Office for interviews with detectives.

    Fire investigators said the cause of the blaze was not obvious at the scene and said they would be doing extensive testing and research before reaching a conclusion about how the fire started.

    Neighbor John Whiddon said he talked with Canham about 20 minutes before the fire started and he seemed fine.

    None of the neighbors reported having any problems with Canham or Weller and all said the couple tended to keep to themselves, particularly with Weller undergoing the debilitating cancer treatments.

    "This is just a terrible Saturday," said Brent Phipps, who lives next door and made the 911 call as the smoke grew thicker and Canham's efforts to ram through the wall became more desperate.

    Martin sheriff's officials said there were no immediate signs of any injuries to Weller other than those from the fire, but an autopsy will be scheduled to determine the cause of death.

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