The body of a 35-year-old Wooster woman has been sent to the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy after firefighters discovered the woman dead on a bathroom floor Friday night.
The cause of death for Heather Manges, 520 N. Honeytown Road, remains unknown, Wayne County Coroner Dr. Amy Jolliff said. She expects an autopsy and testing to confirm whether Manges died from apparent self-inflicted knife wounds or from inhaling smoke during what was described as a small fire.
"In my mind, it could be both," Jolliff said. "There was soot around her nose, but we need the lab to check."
At 7:08 p.m. Friday, two Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies and an agent from Medway Drug Enforcement Agency responded to an anonymous call claiming a woman was cooking methamphetamines with small children present in a house at 520 N. Honeytown Road. While the caller indicated children were in the house, no one other than Manges was found inside the modular home.
It was discovered Manges had an active felony warrant from the Holmes County Court of Common Pleas.
Upon arrival, the three knocked, and Manges opened the door. After seeing they were law enforcement, she slammed the door shut, Sheriff Travis Hutchinson said.
Deputies sensed the woman did not want to be arrested, Capt. Doug Hunter said.
Assisted by the State Highway Patrol and Apple Creek Police, the scene was secured and nearby roads were closed off.
Manges barricaded the front door and a door leading into the bedroom where she retreated.
Hutchinson said deputies continued to try to talk to her through a window, but it didn't work.
While barricaded in the house, deputies discussed options with the Prosecutor's Office and sought a search warrant.
After deputies lost contact with Manges, they heard a pop, and they thought initially it was gunfire, Hunter said. However, no firearm was found in the house.
Wooster Township Fire & Rescue responded to the fire and arrived at 7:58 p.m. Firefighters from Wooster, Central Fire District, New Pittsburg and Apple Creek provided mutual aid. Fire damage to the home was minimal, Hunter said.
As for what caused the fire, it remains under investigation, Wooster Township Assistant Chief Brian Peterman said.
Hutchinson said chemicals and other materials used to make meth might have been the cause.
Jolliff said Manges might have doused the carpet with Coleman fuel and set it on fire intentionally.
At first, deputies thought Manges might have been trying to burn evidence, but Hunter said they are unsure as to whether the fire was set intentionally or the result of an explosion.
Medway Director Don Hall said he is not sure if meth was cooking, but "Our guys removed meth-related chemicals and meth-related items located inside the home and out in the garage."
Because of the possibility of meth-related chemicals being airborne, deputies were cautious about going in without protective equipment, Hunter said.
When firefighters arrived, they entered with self-contained breathing apparatus, Peterman said. "The safety of our responders is a priority. First responders are subject to anything anymore." Their mission remains to protect life and property, he added.
Manges' death and the cause of the fire remain under investigation. The State Fire Marshal's Office is also investigating the fire.