A vacant Norway home has burned to the ground, only days after a group of young adults found a decomposed body in a deep freezer there.
Investigators are working to discover the cause of the fire and the identity of the person who was found in the freezer.
“We are currently working with forensic experts to properly determine the sex and identity of the remains as well as the cause and manner of death,” Orangeburg County Chief Deputy Coroner Sean Fogle said.
“This process will take some time as we methodically investigate this case to ensure proper positive results,” he said.
The body was discovered Sunday afternoon by a group of eight people, ages 18 to 21, who were out riding four-wheelers. They’d heard the Woodview Circle house was haunted, so they went to check it out.
One of the members of the group decided to open the chest freezer that was on the back porch. It appeared to contain someone wearing blue jeans and socks.
The members of the group described an odor of “rotten meat.”
By Tuesday morning, investigators returned to the scene because a fire had destroyed the house.
The fire is “suspicious in nature,” Orangeburg County Fire District Coordinator Teddy Wolfe said.
The house burned sometime after dark on Monday night, he said. No fire departments received any calls about the burning home.
“The home was totally consumed,” Wolfe said. “Only hot spots were left smoldering.”
All that remains of the home are the brick chimneys and the metal roof, which is now on the ground.
The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office is the lead investigating agency in the case.
Joey Williamson, who owns the home and surrounding property, said the two-story house was around 100 years old.
No one’s lived in it for about a decade. Williamson said there was no electricity going to the home.
He wonders if whoever put the body in the freezer also burned the house.
Williamson noted that he rarely went to the home, but he’d planted some pine trees on the property over the years and he’d check on them from time to time.
He thinks the last time he saw the freezer on the porch of the home was four or five years ago, but didn’t note anything suspicious about it then.
Ron Phillips of Norway was the last person to live at the home nearly a decade ago. He raised his daughter there.
He bought the “five-foot, horizontal chest freezer” new when he lived there.
Phillips said he was hoping to repurpose some of the wood in the home for some projects. When he learned a body was discovered on the property, he thought it should be torn down.
“I told Joey we need to tear the old house down, once all of the investigation is over and cleared, because there’s too much bad stuff going on,” Phillips said.
Phillips said he felt terrible when he learned the news that the house burned to the ground.
“Somebody around, I feel, murdered that person because they went and burned it last night,” he said.
Phillips’s grandparents, C.B. and Marie O’Brien, lived there before he did.
He said the house wasn’t “haunted,” but it “had spirits in it, nice spirits.”
He recalled that when he was a boy and visited his grandparents there, a rocking chair on the second floor rocked effortlessly from time to time.
He recalled hearing “voices” while in the house when he, his wife and daughter lived there.
“I heard voices in the house at night, but it never bothered me,” Phillips said.
Sometimes he’d hear what sounded like a “mumbled news broadcast.”
Phillips didn’t say anything to his wife about it, but just moments later she’d mention hearing something.
He’d tell her, “Maybe someone left one of the TVs on in another room.” He’d check to see if a television was on, only to discover none of them were on.
Investigators are hopeful someone will help identify the person in the freezer and provide information about how the house caught fire.
“As we, the Orangeburg County Coroner’s Office, work in conjunction with the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, we ask that anyone that may have information concerning this case or the identity of this individual to please call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC,” Fogle said.
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