Fire Kills 1 at LI Home of Alleged Tax Scofflaw

Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013  |  Updated 6:36 PM EDT
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Fire Kills 1 at LI Home of Alleged Tax Scofflaw

A rural Long Island resident who was due in court Wednesday on an eviction notice related to his alleged failure to pay at least $277,000 in property taxes, instead dealt with a house fire that sent him to the hospital and killed a woman believed to be his wife, police and fire officials said.

Suffolk County police identified the owner of the Manorville home as 68-year-old Charles Woolsey. He was hospitalized with smoke inhalation following the fire, which was reported at about 9:30 a.m.

Manorville Fire Chief Howard Snow said that when firefighters arrived, Woolsey was yelling to them to find his wife. Police said fire officials had to cut a lock with bolt-cutters to gain access to the 15-acre wooded property in eastern Long Island.  A message that said in part "We Won't Submit" appeared to be painted on the man's roof.  The entire message was not legible because the fire destroyed the roof.

Police did not immediately identify the badly burned victim found inside the house. A dog also was found dead in the home, police said.

Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, chief of the Suffolk County homicide squad, said it was too soon to say what started the fire. He said police have interacted with Woolsey several times over the years, but he declined to discuss specific details.

It was not immediately clear who Woolsey's attorney was.

Suffolk County issued a lien on the property in 2010 for non-payment of property taxes. The lien reflected unpaid taxes for 2005 and 2006, but county spokeswoman Catherine Greene said taxes since then also have not been paid. As of June 2011, the tax debt was $276,842.

The taxes were owed to the town of Brookhaven, but the county has responsibility for their collection, Greene said. The county is proceeding with plans to auction the property later this year.

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