- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

PONTIAC, Mich., Jan. 14 (UPI) — Prosecutors Tuesday put off filing charges in the arson fire that destroyed a suburban Detroit home belonging to singer Aretha Franklin.

Investigators turned over a voluminous, three-volume report to prosecutors Friday, concluding the fire had been set in at least three places, using common charcoal lighter fluid or something very similar.

The report identified a specific suspect "investigators have reason to believe … was responsible for setting the blaze," Bloomfield Township Police Chief Jeffrey Werner said. Werner said his investigators sought a warrant but refused to identify the suspect publicly.

But the prosecutor's office said it was delaying action because some witnesses and a key investigator were unavailable for interview and consultation.

"Arson investigations are some of the most intricate and complex cases, usually involving time-consuming chemical testing and must be carefully and analytically reviewed," Prosecutor David Gorcyca said, adding a decision should not be "made in haste."

Assistant Prosecutor James Halushka said Franklin is not a suspect in the fire, which destroyed a 10,000-square-foot house she used for storage purposes. The 12-bedroom, $1.6 million home burned Oct. 25 while Franklin was in Houston for a performance. It had been for sale and was declared a total loss.

Franklin, 60, owns three other homes in the community.

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