CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police arson investigators are working to determine how and why a woman ended up dead inside a burning West Englewood apartment.
Federal, state, and city investigators all are working on the case. The Chicago Fire Department said the woman died in a homicide, but so far the Chicago Police Department has not confirmed that information.
Regardless, family and friends of 38-year-old Ta’anda Hall, a popular local bartender, are seeking answers.
The fire started s hortly after midnight at a two-story apartment building at the corner of 57th and Throop.
A neighbor said he saw the fire coming from an air conditioning unit in the window of a second-story apartment shortly after midnight. He ran around the outside of the building, knocking on windows and doors to try to get everyone out.
“I tried to go in the building, but it was real smoky upstairs. So I went around to the back, jumped the gate, and knocked on the door, and let the people know; alerted them to come up out the building,” said the neighbor, who identified himself only as Pha’tal.
During their search of the building, firefighters found Hall unresponsive in a bedroom on the 2nd floor. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hours later, the Fire Department said her death was a homicide, and the case had been handed over to police. Chicago police did not confirm that information, but investigators were seen working to obtain surveillance video from cameras in the building’s vestibule.
An autopsy was scheduled for Friday.
Loved ones watched as Hall’s body was taken out of the building Thursday morning, and later formed a prayer circle in honor of the mother of three.
Family members were too distraught to talk on camera, so a friend spoke on their behalf about a woman known in the neighborhood as “Lucky Charm.”
“We are all saddened by the loss of her, but we still will always have her loving spirit in our hearts. So, that is our ‘Lucky Charm.’ That is what we always called her,” Anitra Smith said.
Fire Department officials said there was one smoking detector in the hallway of the building, but it was not working, and there were no working smoke detectors in the apartment.