Officials: 2 bodies found at site of Maryland mansion fire

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Investigators found the bodies of two unidentified people Wednesday in the charred remains of an Annapolis-area mansion that burned to the ground earlier this week, a fire official said.

Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Russ Davies said cadaver dogs and searchers found the bodies. He said four people remain unaccounted for.

"I cannot say if they are adults or children," Davies said. He added that they were taken to Office of the State Medical Examiner in Baltimore for identification. Davies said he did not know how long it would take to identify the victims and determine their cause of death.

Property records show the home is owned by Sandra and Don Pyles.

They and four grandchildren have been missing since crews were called early Monday to the scene of the blaze, which reduced the 16,000-square-foot waterfront castle to ruins. Officials said Tuesday that relatives believed the family was inside the mansion when it caught fire.

Investigators began excavating the ruins Wednesday.

Davies said no accelerant sniffing dogs have been brought in so far.

"We have never called the fire suspicious," he said.

The house was constructed more like a commercial building than a typical residence, with heavy steel beams, he said, making it difficult to ensure the scene is safe for investigators to enter.

Davies was accompanied at the Wednesday news conference by several other officials, including Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Wes Adams, County Executive Steve Schuh, local police and fire officials and an agent from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The fire was reported about 3:30 a.m. Monday by an alarm-monitoring company and a neighbor who spotted flames. Officials said it is unclear whether an alarm sounded inside the home, which might have alerted anyone inside.

Some 85 firefighters from several jurisdictions fought the fire. Davies said earlier that because there was no hydrant in the area, firefighters shuttled tankers to the site and stationed a fire boat at a pier nearby. He said hot spots took about 10 hours to extinguish Monday. One area flared up Tuesday, and Davies said crews were monitoring it and extinguishing it as needed.

Special Agent David Cheplak, a spokesman for the ATF's Baltimore field office, said earlier this week there were no immediate signs of foul play.

However, Capt. Robert Howarth, commander of the county fire department's fire and explosives investigation unit, said Tuesday that investigators were treating the site as a crime scene. Howarth said that is a common practice when there are no eyewitnesses, and it means only that anything recovered in the investigation would be admissible in court.

According to a 2008 story in The Baltimore Sun, the Pyles' house, which was the site of a charity event, was described as looking like a castle, with mini-turrets, stonework and lion statues.

State property records said the two-story house was built in 2005 with its seven bedrooms and 7 ½ bathrooms, then listed at $4.2 million. Davis said Tuesday that the house did not have a sprinkler system installed.


Associated Press writer Kasey Jones in Baltimore contributed to this story.

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