JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A baby, a man and a woman were found dead Tuesday night inside a Woodland Acres home after a Christmas tree caught fire, but right now, it's unclear what killed them, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department first responded to the Arlington neighborhood just before 8:30 p.m. to a blaze inside a home on India Avenue, south of Arlington Expressway.
Fire Rescue found three bodies inside and discovered that a Christmas tree had caught fire and burned, according to JSO. Homicide detectives were then called to investigate.
Sheriff's Office Sgt. David Smith said there didn't appear to be forced entry to the home, but foul play is suspected.
Smith said the smoke and soot inside was making it difficult to look around the home. The fire marshal also responded to the scene.
"Fire can cover evidence on the body. It can cause them to not determine the exact cause of death, but if there is smoke inhalation, they will be able to determine if they died prior to the fire based on smoke inhalation damage to the lungs," News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said.
Smith added that investigators will look at how the bodies were found to determine whether or not they were trying to escape the fire.
Police have not yet identified the two adults and baby found dead. Family members told News4Jax that the woman was Ariyan Johnson and the man, Quasean Trotter, was her fiance and the father of their little girl, Aeriel.
"What is my cousin supposed to do now that her daughter and her granddaughter is gone today? How does she, her sons, his sisters and brothers, that her daughter is not coming home? How do we go about Christmas and we don't have her," said Latavia Harris, a family member. "It's ridiculous that these cowards are killing babies. She's not even one. You didn't even have to do that. You didn't have to do that to Aeriel."
Trotter's sister told News4Jax her brother was the type of person whose energy would light up a room. She says the family's death was no accident. She believes they were murdered.
"Houses are close and there’s no way nobody saw or heard nothing. There’s no way," Trotter's sister said. "Somebody needs to start talking because of the babies, and if that was your child?"
Many residents in the neighborhood, nicknamed Sin City, are afraid to spoke on camera or go on record, saying the neighborhood is too rough.
"You can’t assume what it was," an anonymous neighbor said. "We will just have to wait till you hear everything. Sounds crazy. Just sounds crazy."
There is speculation on social media sites that the family was murdered.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
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