TEANECK, N.J. (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — Investigators are now saying a fire that killed an elderly woman in Teaneck, New Jersey was intentionally set.
Joan Davis, 74, was an outspoken resident. While not everyone agreed with her opinions, many say they respected her.
CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reports that detectives are continuing their investigation late into Wednesday night, but there are no suspects in the case so far.
Local and county police shut down a block radius to secure the crime scene. Canine units combed through the neighborhood, where residents were stunned by the death of one of their most outspoken neighbors.
“It’s really sad…that someone would pass away under this type of circumstance,” neighbor Joanne Martin said.
It was a sprawling scene on the tree-lined street in Teaneck Tuesday night, as members of local and county agencies battled a fire at 976 Alpine Drive that started just before 11 p.m.
“I was just finishing up in my kitchen and I smelled something. It smelled like burnt rubber. And so I checked out my own house inside, and there was nothing. So I went outside and I saw smoke billowing out to the intersection and I could see the fire behind her windows in the corner room so I called 9-1-1 and they were here pretty fast,” said neighbor Angela Bombardi.
Davis was well-known in the neighborhood as a dedicated resident who routinely attended city council meetings. In fact, she recently attended and addressed the council during a meeting just ten days ago.
“She was on top of the Council meetings. I wouldn’t say rode hard. She was sometimes very supportive of what the Council was doing. And when she wasn’t supportive, she let us know,” Teaneck Councilman Elie Katz said.
“Didn’t always agree with her politics. Didn’t always agree with her various opinions, but she was always respectful of my opinion and I was always respectful of hers, and we would often have nice discussions together,” one resident said.
Friends also described Davis as a loner, who never spoke of family. They say they have no idea why anyone would want Davis dead.
“This is a person who wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Ryan Hyman said.
Bergen County prosecutors say an autopsy determined Davis’ death was a homicide, but they did not release information on the circumstances of her death.