Woman severely burned in possible drug-related fire

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Heidi Goitia

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 12:10 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 18 at 12:20 PM

Map: Near 17th Avenue and Union Hills Drive

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PHOENIX -- Police believe drug use was likely a factor in an incident in which a woman was severely burned over half of her body.

It happened early Tuesday morning at a home in the area 17th Avenue and Union Hills Drive.

There was some question early on about whether this was a deliberate act.

Police say the victims, a man and woman, initially called the homeowner and later 911, saying somebody broke into the house and set them on fire.

"It doesn't appear that's going to be the case," Sgt. Trent Crump of the Phoenix Police Department said.

Although the original 911 call, which came about 20 minutes after the call to the homeowner, was for a home invasion, evidence found at the scene does not support that.

"We've been unable to find forced entry into the home," Crump said. "As we got inside the home, we have found some evidence of possible drug use in here."

In addition to some illegal drugs, Crump said officers found at least one shattered vial, possibly a pipe.

"We are beginning to believe that this very well may be a case in which this device has blown up in a female's face," he said.

The woman, who is in her mid-20s, suffered burns to her face, neck and chest. At last check, she was in critical condition.

Crump said the man, also in his mid-20s, suffered minor burn injuries to his hands, probably sustained while trying to help the woman.

Both were being treated at the Arizona Burn Center and Maricopa Medical Center.

Nobody else was home at the time of this incident. Crump described the house as "pretty well fortified," explaining that there are cameras and locking screen doors.

That and the lack of evidence of a home invasion pointed investigators in another direction, leading them to piece together a different scenario from the one the couple presented.

"What they had originally called in, it appears as though that information may be false or somewhat delusional," Crump said.

It's not clear if the couple will face charges of false reporting.

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