Son sought as AG leads investigation of fatal fire
MANCHESTER - The son of an elderly couple whose house was the scene of a fatal fire and explosion Monday has been named a person of interest in the case, by authorities who are asking the public's help in finding him.
Homicide prosecutors said they are seeking the whereabouts of Matthew T. Dion, 38, and a 2009 white Nissan Altima.
The bodies of an adult male and adult female were found at the 210 Mooresville Road home after the fire was extinguished. The home is owned by Bob and Connie Dion.
Authorities have yet to identify the two victims, and the New Hampshire Attorney General announced today that their deaths were suspicious.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will conduct autopsies of the two to determine the cause and manner of death, as well as their identity, the attorney general said.
Dion is described as 5-foot-8 and about 200 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes. The license registration of the Altima is 341-0587.
Anyone with information should contact Manchester police at 668-8711.
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MANCHESTER -- Michael Mitchell wasn't surprised to learn the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office has taken over the investigation into the deaths of two people found inside a burned-out Mooresville Road home Monday afternoon.
He believes the two are his aunt and uncle, Connie and Bob Dion, who own the 210 Mooresville Road split-level home.
"The million-dollar question is, 'Where is my cousin?' " Mitchell said. Matt Dion, who Mitchell said his aunt and uncle adopted as a baby, is missing, and both of the couple's cars are gone as well, he said.
"It's not looking good," Mitchell said.
Investigators have released little information about the case and have not identified the Dions as the victims.
Mitchell, however, said if they were alive, they would have contacted his brother, and that hasn't happened. He reasoned they would have seen their fire-damaged, blown-up house all over the news and would have immediately come home if they were still alive.
"I really don't want to say much," Mitchell said of the investigation. "I'd rather have them do the investigation and not have any interfering."
The bodies were found in the finished lower level, he said.
Connie Dion was the sister of Mitchell's mother. He said his mother went to live with the Dions after her husband died and that he, too, lived with them for a while after his marriage broke up.
Mitchell said his aunt and uncle were generous people who took great care of their only child, Matt.
"They did everything for that kid," he said. "That's what is puzzling me. They took very good care of him."
His uncle, who retired as the Salem postmaster, had a passion for stamps and had a part-time business buying and selling them.
"He had a lot of expensive stamps," Mitchell said. As a child, he said his uncle tried to get him interested in the hobby, but it just didn't appeal to him.
His aunt and uncle, he said, were wonderful people who would give you the shirt off their backs.
"I just loved them," he said. "I'm still mind-boggled about it. I really am. You wouldn't think this would happen. You see it on TV all the time, but you never think it would happen to your family. They were awesome people."
By MARK HAYWARD and BILL SMITH
New Hampshire Union Leader
Firefighters found the bodies of two people inside a Mooresville Road home Monday afternoon, a discovery that transformed the fire scene into a high-level investigation involving state fire officials and the Attonrey General's Office.
Hours after the fire was extinguished, Fire Chief James Burkush said he couldn't confirm the identity of the two victims, who were found in the right lower portion of 210 Mooresville Road.
"We've lost two people," Burkush said.
On Tuesday morning, Manchester Police spokesman Brian O'Keefe issued a release stating the Attorney General's Office will be spearheading the investigation, with Manchester detectives assisting with the investigation.
The raised ranch is the longtime home of retired couple Bob and Connie Dion, according to neighbors and city records.
Bob Dion is the retired postmaster in Salem, his nephew, Manchester resident Mike Mitchell, said. He collects stamps and coins, and the collection is worth a substantial sum, Mitchell said.
Family members fear the worst.
"It sounds like they're the ones (in the house)," said Mitchell, who talked with fire officials on and off at the scene.
The discovery was made after firefighters had all but extinguished the flames. With reports of an explosion, and a visible shift in a portion of the front exterior wall, firefighters had worked to brace the structure before entering it, Burkush said.
District Fire Chief Michael Gamache said an explosion, the result of a flashover or smoke explosion, knocked the building a foot off the foundation and blew off both the front and rear doors. He explained that a flashover occurs when a fire reaches a temperature of between 500 and 600 degrees, blowing out windows.
"It was a violent explosion that knocked the house off its foundation," Gamache said.
Once the bodies were found, yellow police tape went up, and the state Fire Marshal's Office, which investigates fire deaths in New Hampshire, and Manchester police joined the investigation.
Meanwhile, the adult son of the Dions, who apparently lives in the house, and a car owned by the Dions had not been located hours after the fire was reported, according to two of his relatives, Mike Mitchell and Michael Focosi.
Family members said the Dions were "enjoying life" in retirement and would often travel to locations in New England and Canada. The couple would sometimes travel with friends and leave their vehicles at home. They had lived in the home for more than 40 years.
Matt Dion, who is in his 30s, lived with his parents, as did Michael Focosi, a 17-year-old whose mother is engaged to Dion and who said he considers Dion his father.
Michael Focosi said he received a text from Matt Dion at 2:42 p.m. that said he was running late for work.
Several hours after the fire, Focosi said he still had not heard from Dion. Family members said Dion suffered a serious injury several years ago and went through an extended period of unemployment during which he moved in with his parents.
Focosi said no one was supposed to be in the house. He said his grandparents were believed to be on vacation in Lincoln.
"I've called everybody, but nobody's answered," said Focosi.
As darkness fell, deputy State Fire Marshal Robert Farley said the victims had yet to be moved. He said any identification would have to come from the state Medical Examiner who remained inside the building late Monday night.
Burkush and Farley said no cause had been determined for the fire, and they had not determined whether an accelerant was used or if the house had been broken into. Gamache said officials don't know how long the fire burned before it was reported. Damage to the home was estimated at $175,000.
In addition to Bob Dion's extensive stamp collection, Connie Dion was known to have a large jewelry collection, family members said.
Focosi's mother, Pam Focosi, was on the scene last night. Investigators were interviewing both her and her son.
Mooresville Road is in south Manchester. The short, residential street is home to tidy ranches and colonials from the second half of the 1900s, as well as a small church. It is a connector street between South Mammoth and Huse roads, parallel to the nearby Interstate 293.
The fire was called in at 2:37 p.m. by passersby.
Bodwell Road resident Kathy Burtram said she was driving by and saw smoke. She pulled over to call 911, and when she did so, several explosions took place, she said.
"It was awful, I was right here and I couldn't help them," she said. Other neighbors said they saw smoke, but heard no explosions.
Burkush said fire investigators haven't been able to determine if there was an explosion.
City records indicate the house had oil heat. Burkush said there is no natural gas line to the house.
South Mammoth Road resident Jamie Wintle said she was outside with her children and saw smoke, but heard no explosion. She ran up and saw heavy smoke streaming from the house and flames coming from the front door.
"The smoke coming out of it was crazy," she said.
Burkush said 14 inches of water were on the floor where the bodies were found, and that had to be pumped out.
An investigator from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who is assigned to the Fire Marshal's office was also on site, but Burkush said that was not out of the ordinary.