A 32-year-old Hyattsville man, Leroy Courchain, died Monday night in a two-alarm blaze that destroyed his family's Burlington Road home, Prince George's County fire department officials said yesterday.
Fire department spokesman Tony DeStefano said that the fire, which caused about $70,000 in damages to the house at 4623 Burlington Rd., was under investigation and that speculation about its cause was "premature."
Several persons who knew Courchain said he was depressed after he and his wife Jamie separated about three weeks ago. Courchain, who was in the Army, had moved to a barracks at Fort Meade, but he went back into the family home Monday night while his wife was away.
He had told one neighbor that he planned to burn down the house. John Brady, who lives across the street, said that Courchain asked Monday for some gasoline.
"He said he was going to cut the grass later that night but then said that he was only kidding. Then he said he was going to burn down the house," Brady said yesterday as he stood across from the charred remains of the house. He added that he had told Courchain that he had no gasoline. Brady said he and his father noticed the fire about 11 p.m. Monday night and tried to get into the house, but the doors were locked.
Judy Heath, who has known the Courchains for three years, was baby-sitting for the couple's three children while Jamie Courchain was out of town. She said that Leroy Courchain had been to the house several times to see his children while his wife was gone.
Heath said that Monday evening Leroy Courchain told her to leave. "He had put all of my personal belongings out on the lawn and he was definitely upset," she said.
Neighbors said Jamie Courchain came to the house to pick up the children about an hour before the fire started.