UNSOLVED: Renton house fire, 1st body found decomposing
February 26, 2018
A late Friday afternoon, November 3rd, 2017, firefighters received a call from neighbors for a Renton home in the Fairwood area. When the firefighters arrived, they were met not only by a house covered in flames, but to their surprise, they were also met by the body of a man whose death would very soon become a mystery.
The fire took more than an hour to put out. Not only was the crew having to fight a fire, but they also had to take care when they discovered the body of a man in the back patio area who seemed to have been kept there. King County Sheriff Sgt. Cindi West and the King County Medical Examiner’s Office said the man was believed to be dead for some time, “possibly months.” It was later disclosed that the body could be seen on public aerial photos from the county’s parcel maps—2 years prior to its discovery during the mysterious house fire.
Investigators returned to search the home 4 days adjacent to the fire—Tuesday, November 7th, as it was deemed safe to inspect. Upon searching the house, another body was found in a bedroom, where the fire was determined to have originated. An electrical heater in this first bedroom caused the fire. It was also confirmed as accidental by investigators’ observations.
Further details as to the cause of death and autopsy reports for both bodies are awaiting scientific evaluation.
Medical examiners believe the men to be brothers, Larry Steinhert 68, and Lawrence Steinhert 65. Younger brother Lawrence, whose body was first discovered, allegedly went missing in 2015. Neighbors recall his unusual absence.
Though, it is worth noting, there was no missing person’s report filed at the time of Lawrence Steinhert’s disappearance.
The sheriff’s office gained further information about the brothers as neighbors shared details regarding Lawrence’s stay. Investigators were informed that Lawrence moved from Oregon, to live with and look after his older brother Larry, when their father passed away in 2013.
Neighbors later described the older brother, Larry, as being mentally disabled and homebound, as he did not drive, rarely ever leaving his home. Assuming this is true, it would make sense that his younger brother would move in to look after him. The King County Sheriff’s Office did confirm that the deceased were indeed brothers who “lived together at one time.”
Sgt. West shared with The Seattle Times just how difficult it was to piece together the story, as the two seemed to be the last living members of their family. She also shared how secluded Larry seemed to be, as several “empty boxes” of pizza were found in the home.
So many details involving the deaths are left to be interpreted.
At first glance, investigators with The King County Sheriff’s Office believe—as for Lawrence Steinhert’s death— that there was no foul play involved. Though, until King County medical examiners release the autopsy reports and cause of death, it cannot be firmly determined.
Sgt. Cindi West ended her statements by regarding how “strange” and “sad” the case really was. She says the sheriff’s office does not know for sure if the brothers’ story is correct, but says that, “the timeline is consistent.”
Larry was unaware and played no part in his brother’s death.
This theory suggests that the younger brother, Lawrence, died of natural causes, and Larry went without knowing about the death for two years. It mainly stems from the released information by investigators on the scene who, after immediately viewing Lawrence’s body, saw no signs of foul play. This theory is shared by Sgt. Cindi West, as she gave a statement theorizing that the older brother Larry was innocent.
“We don’t know whether the brother went outside and had a heart attack— but there didn’t appear to be any trauma or foul play,” explains Sgt. West.
Though, without the autopsy, we cannot rule out the possibility of the older brother’s involvement. It’s also unlikely that Larry didn’t notice the smell of rot or decomposing flesh, as he seemed to never leave his home.
Larry was aware and kept Lawrence’s death a secret.
This theory infers that Larry found his dead brother and either moved his body or ignored it. He may have been afraid, moving the body onto the patio so he would not have to see it. And if the neighbors were right in their observations that Larry was indeed, “mentally ill,” it may explain his inaction. Though, it is strange he never called the police, or let someone know.
We know that Larry never filed a police report, not even two years after his brother went missing in 2015.
It’s almost as if he was involved in some way.
Lawrence moves in with Larry to take care of him after their father passes away. Assuming Larry is unhappy, as he never leaves his home, he gets fed up with his younger brother pushing him around and telling him what to do. Being mentally and emotionally unstable, while wanting so badly to be on his own at 68, he decides to poison Lawrence’s food/drink that they ordered from a nearby pizza shop—which could have been the possible food of choice, given the amount of empty pizza boxes found at the scene. So, Lawrence dies in 2015 without any indication of a struggle or foul play, and Larry moves his body onto the patio to lay there and rot for two years.
Later their house catches on fire due to an electrical heater in Larry’s bedroom. Larry dies due to smoke inhalation.
And their story is left to be interpreted.
Let us know what theory you believe by commenting below, and just maybe we can solve the mystery…or at least come up with some great ideas!
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