Galveston fire that killed woman, injured 5, now investigated as homicide, police say

Thursday, February 29, 2024
GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Galveston house fire that resulted in the death of one of four people pulled from the burning home is now being investigated as a possible arson and homicide, according to authorities.

Family at the scene told ABC13 that 55-year-old mother Renita Hawthorne was pronounced dead at the hospital. Her 58-year-old boyfriend and one of her teenage daughters are in the ICU, and another teenage daughter has since been released from the hospital.

The fire started at the home on 39th Street near Avenue H just before 1 a.m. Thursday. Video from the scene shows heavy damage to the home.

"Also a third coming out the same window," firefighters were heard reporting on radio traffic during the rescue.

According to authorities, firefighters with the Galveston Fire Department found three people trying to escape from a window. Crews immediately provided a ladder, went into the home, and pulled out three people to safety. When they went back in to search, they found a fourth person.

"Certainly, before arrival, dispatch came back and stated that there may be some possibly trapped victims. Upon arrival, we found some victims in the delta corner of the house. They threw a ladder. They pulled three of them out," Galveston Fire Department's Battalion Chief Tim Johnson said.

All four victims were taken to the trauma center at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, where Hawthorne succumbed to her injuries.

Galveston Fire Chief Charlie Olsen said one firefighter was taken to the hospital with a "twisted knee" and has since been released. The other firefighter was admitted to the hospital, though the extent of his injuries is unknown.

Galveston fire investigators determined it was intentionally set. An investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information on the case is urged to contact detectives at 409-765-3779. Anonymous tips can also be reported to Galveston Crime Stoppers at 409-763-8477.

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