Autopsy reveals fire caused man's death

Thursday, January 22, 2009 | 1:26 p.m. CST; updated 2:55 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 22, 2009

COLUMBIA — The results of Wednesday morning's autopsy on the body of a man found in the rubble of a burnt shed revealed that he died in the fire, Deputy Medical Examiner Eddie Adelstein said Thursday.

Adelstein confirmed that the man was alive when the fire began and that the man's lungs contained evidence of smoke inhalation. The exact cause of death was asphyxiation and internal trauma.

"There was no evidence of foul play," Adelstein said.

The man's identity has still not been disclosed, and the medical examiner's office was awaiting the results of DNA analysis.

However, in an e-mail Thursday morning, the owner of the property, Carolyn Mathews, referred to the man as "a friend" whose death upset her deeply. She also said she was "upset about the false and misleading coverage" of the incident in the media and declined interviews, citing the advice of her attorney.

The man's body was found early Tuesday morning by the Columbia Fire Department after responding to a reported fire at 4200 Rock Quarry Road. The fire destroyed a shed behind Mathews' property, where the man was staying. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

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