Fire at home of dog owners in mauling death ruled arson

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A Friday morning fire at the home where two people were taken into custody after their dogs fatally mauled a woman on Feb. 7 has been ruled arson, according to Dayton fire officials.

A passerby reported seeing smoke coming from the building around 8:15 am, said Dayton Fire Chief Jeff Payne.

No one was in the home at the time of the fire, Payne said. The home is owned by Andrew Nason, 28, who lived there with Julie Custer, 25. Nason and Custer were taken into custody after their mixed mastiff dogs mauled their neighbor, Klonda Richey, 57, to death in the early morning hours of Feb. 7. When police responded to a 911 call about a naked body lying outside her home, they killed the dogs who charged them.

The investigation is ongoing and Nason and Custer have been released from jail “pending additional investigation.”

After responding to the call, firefighters forced entry through a locked door and knocked down the fire, which was in a second floor rear bedroom, Payne said.

There were no people or animals in the building, Payne said.

“Neighbors said they had been moving out all week,” he said.

The neighbors weren’t able to say for sure when the last time Custer and Nason were at the house.

Payne said the department’s arson investigation unit was at the scene collecting evidence this morning. Investigators will turn their evidence into the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab to determine if any accelerants were added to it, he said. “We’re going to go ahead and rule this arson,” he said. “It’s an arson under investigation.”

Payne declined to comment further on the investigation. Earlier reports said damage was estimated at between $5,000 and $10,000. According to the Montgomery County Auditor’s website, the home is valued at $22,870. Nason purchased the home in 2011 for $8,000, the website says.

In the months before her death, Richey, who lived at 31 E. Bruce Ave., with about 20 cats, started collecting surveillance video from outside of her home for evidence that the dogs were charging her and threats she said Nason had made against her for about two years. She filed and was denied a civil stalking protection order but at one point apparently left an unsigned and undated note on Nason’s door offering to buy his house for $3,900 cash.

“Don’t really want the house, but do want the trauma to my cats and fear to end,” Richey wrote. “…If you want to hurt me, shoot or stab me. Leave cats in peace.”

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