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Police: Fire at Florida home was arson; 4 dead


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - The "unusual" fire at a Florida mansion belonging to a former tennis star was intentionally set and a family of four was discovered in the charred remains, police said Wednesday.

The victims were described as two adults and two teenage children, but they have not been positively identified, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski said. She described the fire as "unusual" and said there were "various fireworks" throughout the Tampa Bay-area home.

Two of the bodies appeared to have "upper body trauma," but she didn't indicate which ones or give any more details. She also said no weapons had been found.

Former tennis standout James Blake had been renting the home to the family for about the past two years, Lusczynski said. He was not there at the time of the fire.

4 Dead In Fire At Former Tennis Player James Blake's Florida Home

The home was in an upscale subdivision north of Tampa. Many sports stars and executives live in the neighborhood.

Hours after the fire was reported about Wednesday 6 a.m. EDT, firefighters were still at the more than 6,000-square foot home located north of downtown Tampa. Blake bought the home in the Avila subdivision in 2005 for $1.5 million, according to Hillsborough County property records. It had five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Video of the fire showed it totally engulfed in flames.

Lusczynski said the two teenagers were found in their respective bedrooms and the two adults were found in their bedroom.

Avila is an exclusive enclave known for its mansions and heavy security. Many well-known athletes call the community home and over the years, various football, baseball and tennis players have bought homes in the subdivision, which has a country club and golf course.

Blake, 34, was ranked fourth on the ATP world tour in 2006 before he retired last year. He also has the James Blake Foundation, an organization dedicated to cancer research, in memory of his father who died of gastric cancer.


Follow Tamara Lush at https://twitter.com/tamaralush

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
ColoMtnLvr May 07 2014 at 4:57 PM

Fire sweeps quickly in houses. Four arson fires were started in our neighborhood last October. Lost 1/2 of our house to fire, the other half and basement with heavy smoke damaged. The three of us got out alive - I was awaken at 4 a.m. and then an upstairs smoke detector went off further awakening me that there was a fire. Within two minutes, half the house was ablaze. Had to hang up on the 911 operator as the house was filling up with really choking smoke and zero visibility.

Unfortunately, Farmers Insurance is doing a terrible job with our claim/loss. They are not wanting to pay a fair settlement on all of our personal property loss and the rebuild settlement of the torched house is still unsettled and it's been 7 months already !.

We have a great policy with plenty of coverage but Farmers doesn't play by the Golden Rule. To do: Make an accurate inventory of your belonging - in writing and photos - and hope you never have to use them. Photos of outside and inside each room too.

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2 replies
Karen ColoMtnLvr May 07 2014 at 5:33 PM

Sorry for your loss, but good that you made it out in one piece. Insurance companies are like any agency, that make promises in the good times, and turn tail in the bad ones. Thanks for sharing about this company. I'll pass the word along.

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Ken ColoMtnLvr May 07 2014 at 5:40 PM

First, I am glad that you all made it out alive. Second, I agree with you about the inventory. Last, Farmers (and other insurance companies), protect themselves first - reading even only part of an insurance course makes that clear. They (not just Farmers) have their own "Golden Rule," as put by my uncle years ago: "He who has the gold makes the rules."

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Barry Pearson May 07 2014 at 6:36 PM

Oh the Media continues to get worse. Tennis Pro house on fire is unrelated
and trite at best. Very midleading come-on from writer shame on you.

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1 reply
barbara Barry Pearson May 07 2014 at 8:30 PM


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rlmcanoe May 07 2014 at 7:04 PM

Condolences from Massachusetts to family and friends that lost a loved one. sad

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Franco May 07 2014 at 7:16 PM

Just another house fire people...move on. :/

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3 replies
Elizabeth May 07 2014 at 7:17 PM

Why drag the landlord into the story?

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2 replies
Ghetto Cat Elizabeth May 07 2014 at 8:11 PM

Fame is a dirty tennis racket.

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Kim Ann Elizabeth May 07 2014 at 8:16 PM

To make better headlines, why else. I'm sorry for the family, but thats why he was brought into it

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thorrsman May 07 2014 at 7:33 PM

Local reporting is that at least two of the bodies had "upper body trauma" and that the fire was deliberately set.

This is shaping up as arson to cover murder.

Whether that is murder/suicide or murder for revenge/profit/other-criminal-activity will not be known for a few days at the least.

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flshbck67 May 07 2014 at 7:56 PM

if this is a gated community there must be some security at gates etc there must be some cluees that we dont know about.

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cmihue5 May 07 2014 at 8:01 PM

who gives it sh(*&&* is 4 rich MF, how many kids are dying of hunger as we speak, and they are not news at all.

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4 replies
fisherdude47 May 08 2014 at 8:19 AM

Forget about the tennis star renting the home out, the news reporting should focus on the people that actually died in the fire and why the fire was intentionally set.

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1 reply
chaspharrington fisherdude47 May 08 2014 at 9:49 AM


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Doug May 08 2014 at 8:15 AM

And ask Hillary about it and her answer will be "and what difference does it make anymore"

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6 replies
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