Mystery in the Mountains: Marion Collins died in a house fire. Was it arson?

In the early hours of August 29, 2020, a house fire in the Clinton County town of Black Brook killed 87-year-old Marion Collins.

One year later, New York State Police are still figuring out how Collins’ home, which was destroyed, went up in flames. Troop B New York State Police Public Information Officer, Jennifer Fleishman, said Collins was trapped inside the residence. She died of her injuries at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.

An autopsy determined that Collins’s cause of death was asphyxiation from smoke inhalation.

“Two other residents were inside the apartment building which was a two-story residence with two separate units,” Fleishman said. “The top floor resident was not home at the time and the bottom two residents who resided with Ms. Collins were able to escape safely from the residence.”

Fleishman said investigators were able to determine that the fire started on the exterior of the house on the downstairs level. She described the fire as “definitely suspicious in nature.”

The two who were able to escape were Collins’ grandson and a nephew. Her granddaughter, Jessica Pelt, said Collins looked after both of them.

“She was the primary caretaker of my intellectually disabled cousin for 39 years, until the night of the fire,” said Pelt.

Pelt keeps her grandmother’s memory alive as she and her family wait for answers. Every Monday, she posts a memory on social media calling it “Marion Monday.”

“She was more than just what happened to her so I started telling stories about her and sharing pictures on Mondays.

I think she was best known in the community for excessively decorating her yard for the holidays. She knew that the people and the children loved it so she would have all the inflatables out and blown up. It was quite excessive but she was so tickled when someone would stop and stay that they loved it or their kids loved it,” said Pelt.

Fleishman is asking anyone with information to call Investigator Trevor Giroux at 518-897-2073.

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