Press-Republican

December 4, 2013

Woman found dead in gutted home

Authorities say cause of fire suspicious

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — MORIAH — Sierra A. Daha’s body was found on the second floor of her Dugway Road home in Moriah Center after a possible arson fire swept through early Tuesday.

Two others in the residence, Mary Daha, 81, the dead woman’s grandmother and owner of the home, and Sierra’s boyfriend, Damian Sprague, 20, escaped without injury.

The origin of the fire and Sierra’s cause of death were still unknown, police said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Several people were questioned by authorities following the fire, police said, but they had no one in custody.

PASSER-BY HELPED

The media was briefed by State Police Troop B Uniformed Division Capt. John Tibbitts and Bureau of Criminal Investigation Capt. Robert LaFountain on the road in front of the Daha home Tuesday afternoon.

“(Essex County) E-911 received a report of a structure fire in Moriah at 5:04 a.m.,” Tibbitts said. “New York State Police responded. When they arrived on scene, two subjects had been escorted out.”

LaFountain said Sierra, who was 22, was found on the upper left side of the two-story wood-frame home.

“One person (Sprague) made it out, and a passer-by stopped to assist. (Sierra) was not able to get out,” he said. 

The fire was fully involved when troopers arrived, LaFountain said.

‘EXTENSIVE INVESTIGATION’

LaFountain said a tragedy like this “is obviously a very emotional, a very difficult thing for the community.”

He praised firefighters as “very dedicated” for their rapid response and efficient effort in putting out the fire.

Investigators were going through the rubble, he said, as wisps of smoke still rose from the house.

“It’s going to be an extensive investigation. The house is a total loss.”

Members of the Essex County Fire Investigation Unit were sifting through the home Tuesday morning. The State Police Forensic Identification Unit was also at the site, along with investigators from the State Fire Prevention Office.

An autopsy was scheduled to be performed Wednesday by Forensic Pathologist Dr. Michael Sikirica at Albany Medical Center, Tibbitts said.

HAD SEARCHED HOUSE

Fighting the fire at 2726 Dugway Road were Moriah, Mineville-Witherbee, Port Henry, Westport, Ticonderoga, Elizabethtown and Crown Point fire departments. Moriah Ambulance Squad stood by.

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department and Moriah Town Police were also at the fire.

The house was still standing Tuesday morning but had been gutted by the fire. Police said it would probably have to be razed.

Dugway Road between Plank Road and Center Road was closed to traffic all day Tuesday by State Police.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com