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Troy cops: triple family tragedy "suspicious"

Updated: 04/05/2014 1:10 PM
Created: 04/04/2014 11:37 PM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy

TROY - At the burned out apartment building where a young pregnant woman died on Thursday night, police on Friday executed a search warrant on the property. Even before investigators left the scene on Friday, family and friends of the victim were gathering for a candlelight vigil.

Even though everyone acknowledges what's happened in Troy over a 48 hour period amounts to an unimaginable triple family tragedy, detectives are trying to figure out if what happened to Vanessa Milligan measures up to a crime.

Through unimaginable pain, unbearable heartache, and profound sadness, friends, family, and neighbors of 19-year old Vanessa Milligan gathered on a chilly April evening, searching for comfort, asking for strength, and fighting back tears in memory of a young woman who had everything to live for.

"Vanessa's one of a kind," says Michelle Polen, the young woman's aunt. "She's very bright and anybody that came across her would know that."

"She was a wonderful young lady," according to Carrie Vuignier, another aunt. "She's bright, in college, got a high school diploma. She was very well loved as you can tell."

When Vanessa died inside her burning apartment building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 106th Street in Lansingburgh late Thursday night, she was nine months pregnant, and the only one of ten occupants unable to escape the inferno.

"All our resources were directed toward the rescue," said Troy Fire Chief Tom Garrett, "The fire got a good head start on us."

To understand Vanessa's upbringing is to understand the pain she was felling on the day she died. Ever since she was a little girl, Vanessa was raised by her grandmother, Marilyn Houser. The day before the fire, Marilyn passed away.

While grieving her grandmother's death, Vanessa told Facebook friends she needed to turn off her cell phone and get some rest.

Less then 24 hours later, people attending a candlelight vigil across from the fire scene were crying for three generations lost in an instant, including one that never had a chance to live.

"There's not really enough words to say about Vanessa, how great a granddaughter she was and how much she'll be missed," says Patricia Sunkes, Vanessa's other grandmother.

Meanwhile, fire investigators worked well into Friday night, wanting to make sure they didn't miss any potential evidence in what they're calling a wide open investigation: a deadly fire without a cause.

"That's yet to be determined whether or not the death is a result of the fire or if there was something else that went on," says Troy Police Captain Dan DeWolf.

An autopsy on Vanessa Milligan is scheduled for Saturday morning.

Even though fatal fires don't necessarily result in automatic search warrants, sources tell News Channel 13 that because of certain circumstances and rumors, authorities are treating this as a "suspicious fire".

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