Death of woman in Northwest Side fire ruled a homicide

The death of a 35-year-old woman following a Northwest Side fire that also injured her daughter was ruled a homicide by the Cook County medical examiner's office today.

Claudia Martinez, 35, suffered severe burns in the fire Wednesday night in the basement of the two-flat where she lived in the 4800 block of North Kenneth Avenue, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. The fire started about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, and Martinez and a 6-year-old girl were taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital following the fire, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala.

Martinez was transferred to Loyola University Medical Center’s burn unit, where she was declared dead just before 6 a.m. Thursday, according to the medical examiner’s office. Neighbors told WGN-TV that the girl injured was Martinez’s daughter.

Following an autopsy today, the medical examiner's office determined Martinez died from thermal injuries that came from the apartment fire and her death was ruled a homicide.

The fire was being investigated as a possible arson, police said Thursday. Police and fire officials said no update on the investigation was available today. It was not immediately known if anyone was being questioned in the fire.

Neighbors who live upstairs from the Martinez family were in their second-floor apartment when they heard a loud noise, and the building’s smoke alarms started going off. Nora Fernando had been in bed, but had gotten up to get something to eat, when she was frightened by the noise at the back of the building.

“I heard something, like an explosion, and the fire alarms were going off,” Fernando, who was in her apartment with two sons, told WGN-TV.

At first, Fernando’s sons, who were in the front of the apartment, paid little attention to the explosion sound, thinking it was a firework, said Jason Javier, one of her sons, who was on a computer at the time. Then Fernando opened the front door, and they realized the front stairwell was filling with smoke.

“I thought that the fire was coming from the front, but was worse when we got back there,” to the rear of the building, and so they all three made their way back to the front stairwell and got out that way, Javier told WGN-TV.

Martinez lived in a lower-level apartment with her husband and daughter, neighbors told WGN-TV.

Tribune reporter Liam Ford contributed


Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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