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Authorities say fatal fire possible murder/suicide

By Ben Neary

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 10 2012 2:54 p.m. MST

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A Cheyenne woman bought gasoline and sent out text messages indicating she possibly intended to commit suicide before apparently torching the trailer where she lived with her 11-year-old daughter, killing them both last week, police said Friday.

Capt. Rich Hillegas with the Laramie County Sheriff's Office on Friday identified the dead girl as Miriam Ortiz, a sixth grader at Afflerbach Elementary School in Cheyenne.

Hillegas said investigators have recovered surveillance video of Ortiz's mother, Erica Delgado, 34, buying gasoline at a local convenience store shortly before the fire gutted the modest trailer home she shared with her daughter in the early morning hours of Feb. 3.

Both Ortiz and Delgado were found dead in the trailer and Hillegas said it appears both died from the fire. He said the trailer door was bolted from the inside and said investigators had found burn marks indicating pour patterns from an accelerant in the home.

"Certainly the mom's going to be the suspect in this as far as starting the fire, but all that information has to be confirmed," Hillegas said.

Hillegas said he didn't have information about what Delgado's text messages said or to whom they were sent. "Just generally that text messages that the mom sent definitely had overtones of suicide," he said.

Hillegas said investigators have no insight into any motive for Delgado's possible actions. "We don't know that we will ever know that, unless somebody comes forward with something to tell us that she talked to them, and explained a possible motive or reason for it," he said.

Investigators are still waiting for some evidence to be analyzed.

In addition to sheriff's office investigators, Hillegas said investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as State Fire Marshal's Office have worked on the case.

Delgado had lived in Cheyenne for about six years, Hillegas said. He said she had been living in the mobile home for about that same amount of time. Delgado was currently out of work but had worked at a local hotel, Hillegas said.

A pile of stuffed animals and flowers remained outside the gutted, boarded-up trailer on Friday. Several notes, penned in childish writing, expressed love for Miriam.

Carol Clarke, principal at Afflerbach Elementary, said Friday that psychologists and social workers are helping people at the school deal with Miriam's death. Clarke said the girl had been in the sixth grade and had been at the school since kindergarten.

"She will be missed," Clarke said of the girl.

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