RENO, Nev. – Two people found dead in a home that burned in an upscale Reno neighborhood had heavily fortified the foreclosed house, apparently anticipating the sheriff's deputies who came to evict them, police said Wednesday.
An investigation continued into the cause of death of the two people whose bodies were removed from the charred rubble Wednesday morning and taken to the Washoe County medical examiner's office for an autopsy.
They have not been positively identified but were believed to be Therese Christenson, 83, and her son, Gary "Axel" Christenson, 46, who had lived for decades in the house that was sold at a foreclosure auction in June.
Deputies serving the eviction notice Tuesday heard what they thought were gunshots after they announced themselves at the front door about 10:40 a.m. They took cover and noticed the house was on fire.
Police SWAT teams surrounded the area, pointing guns at the house while firefighters poured water on the flames from a distance for about eight hours.
"It had been heavily fortified," Reno police Lt. Robert Nuttall said about the home, which sits in a gated community near a finely manicured golf course designed by famed architect Robert Trent Jones Sr.
"All the windows and doors had been boarded up with pressboard and plywood from the inside. Later, we learned the front door had been barricaded with cases of ceramic tile," he told reporters Wednesday.
No weapons were found, but investigators suspect an accelerant was used inside the house, Nuttall said. He said the bodies were found next to each other in the kitchen in a part of the house that had burned the least.
Washoe County Sheriff's Deputy Armando Avina said the eviction notice served Tuesday should have come as no surprise to the residents. He said they had been warned several times that their home had sold following foreclosure. Utility companies and others also had posted several notices on their door.
Citing court records, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Therese Christenson had filed for bankruptcy three times in the past three years, but each time, she withdrew the filing and the case was dismissed.
A winning bid of $267,100 was made for Christenson's property at public auction June 3, with unpaid debt and costs of $173,228, county records show. Court records show the first of two five-day notices to vacate the house were served June 4.