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Major Case Squad activated in veteran’s death following house fire

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CAHOKIA, Ill. - The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis has been activated to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a World War II veteran after a fire at his Cahokia home.

The fire occurred Wednesday around 1:30 a.m. in the 1100 block of Saint Marcella.

Firefighters had a hard time fighting the flames because of ammunition inside the home. The ammo in the home caused some explosions inside. It took about 20 minutes to get the fire under control and no fire fighters were injured.

The homeowner, 89-year-old Howard Sutton, was found inside a bedroom. Family members said Sutton, a father of three, was a machinist and an outdoorsman who was active with the Boy Scouts. He had lived in the home for more than 50 years.

The World War II Navy veteran also served in the Philippines.

There's been no word on exactly what caused the fire.

“Right now, we do not have a lot of leads,” said Captain Dennis Plew, deputy commander of the Major Case Squad.

Neighbors were stunned the Major Case Squad stepped in to investigate what apparently was a murder.

“I honestly don’t think that’s the case," said Belinda Graham, a neighbor. "I don’t see anybody targeting him, you know what I mean? He kept to himself. I don’t know what he had of value in there.”

The Illinois Fire Marshall found suspicious circumstances during the investigation of the fire.  Detectives did not release a specific cause of death.

“At this point right now we found some specific circumstances that’s caused us to activate the Major Case Squad to help us investigate this,” Capt. Plew said.

People here have a lot of faith in the team of special detectives.

“It’s sickening and it’s very sad and its disappointing that this stuff goes on,” said Royce McCain, a local taxi driver.

What was described as a once peaceful neighborhood has residents on edge.

“...You know, I see things around here; flashlights going through houses, things like that. I never thought anything like that, somebody would kill and then set their house on fire,” Graham said.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Major Case Squad at 618-332-4248.

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