Next week, it will have been six months since six people were killed in a house explosion in Salem. This week, the focus is on a recent change to the death certificates to four of the victims. Our Matt Hunter has more on why adjustment has left some baffled.
SALEM, N.Y. -- Nearly six months after a massive explosion destroyed a home and cut short the lives of six people, the property at 4372 Route 29 in Salem still has visible scars.
While a medical examiner initially labeled the deaths here "accidental," State Police confirm the manner of deaths for at least four of the victims have been switched to "homicide."
Attorney Paul Wein represents Steven McComsey, one of the explosion's few survivors, and calls the change puzzling.
"It's really concerning. Especially since there's no proof and it makes no sense. Calling it a ‘homicide’ doesn't make it a homicide. You have to have some proof something is going on," Wein said.
What Wein says he finds more disturbing is that McComsey, who dated one of the victims and lived in the home, recently received death threats from a person who claimed that while being questioned by State Police, troopers implicated McComsey in the explosion. To date, no criminal charges have been filed against anyone.
"We called the State Police as soon as we got that threat and said 'back off, you can't go around saying these things about my client unless you've got some proof,’” Wein said.
We spoke to Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright off-camera, who confirmed the manner of death had been changed to "homicide" for the victims. He said that does not guarantee criminal charges will be filed against anyone, but it does mean a coroner could not definitively determine the deaths were, "Not by accident." Eventual charges would depend on State Police investigators finding proof in their ongoing investigation.
Phone calls made to State Police were referred back to the DA's office, but since July, much of the focus has been on a disconnected propane tank that was left on the property.
As troopers continue their investigation into what and potentially who caused the explosion, Wein says he's hopeful they'll be thorough.
"It seems very strange that they, without any basis, without any motive, would term these things ‘homicide’ without any indication a crime occurred,” Wein said. “It's very strange."