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Published: Wednesday, 1/7/2004

1st Lima fire is ruled arson; 2nd killed man

LIMA, Ohio - One of two fires that broke out during the New Year s holiday in the home of a Perry Township man has been ruled arson, but the cause of the later blaze that killed him is still undetermined, an Allen County sheriff s investigator said yesterday.

An autopsy performed on Michael Gibson, 25, determined that he died of smoke inhalation, said Maj. Larry Van Horn of the sheriff s office.

The Lucas County coroner s office performed the autopsy. Major Van Horn said Mr. Gibson s remains were identified through dental records.

Investigators with the State Fire Marshal s office, the Perry Township Fire Department, and the sheriff s office have not ruled on the cause of the New Year s Day fire that killed Mr. Gibson. Both fires occurred in an unattached garage that was converted into living quarters behind a home at 203 E. 15th St.

The first fire, which was reported on New Year s Eve, was ruled arson, Major Van Horn said. A lighter was used to set a sofa and mattress on fire, he said.

“No formal charges have been filed on that yet,” Major Van Horn said.

Mr. Gibson reported that fire to the sheriff s office around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. He said his girlfriend set the couch on fire during a domestic dispute. The fire was extinguished by the residents and fire crews were not summoned to the home, just blocks south of the Lima city limit.

Yvonne Gipson, who lived at the same address, was in custody yesterday on unrelated, outstanding drug warrants, said Major Van Horn, who called Ms. Gipson a suspect in the first fire.

No charges have been filed in the fatal fire, which was reported early Thursday, said Major Van Horn.

Township Fire Chief Rick Phillips said yesterday the former garage wasn t approved for use as living quarters.

Ms. Gipson, 40, was arraigned Jan. 2 in Lima Municipal Court, where she pleaded no contest to charges of drunken driving, having an open container in a vehicle, and speeding.

She was sentenced to a total of 180 days in jail, of which 160 days were suspended. She also pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

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