Man died before fire was set, police say; Victim, 62, was resident of Turners Station house gutted by blaze


A man whose body was found in a Turners Station townhouse destroyed by fire was dead before the blaze began, Baltimore County police said yesterday.

The man, identified by police as George W. Koval Jr., 62, lived in the two-story brick townhouse on Willow Court. How and when he died remained unclear yesterday, pending the results of forensic tests.

"We're still working on evidence tests on that," said Baltimore County police spokeswoman Cpl. Vickie Warehime. "He died prior to the fire being started."

Koval's body was discovered Monday morning by firefighters as they fought an intense fire that killed Venice Reid, an 18-month-old disabled girl, and seriously injured her brother, Michael Reid, and mother, Elva E. Reid.

A preliminary investigation by police and fire officials determined Monday that flammable liquid was involved in the fire. But Warehime said authorities have not determined whether the blaze was accidental or deliberately set. An investigation continued yesterday, she said.

Koval and the Reids had moved into the house in March, neighbors said. Elva Reid and Koval were registered nurses, and until recently had worked at Maryland General Hospital in Baltimore.

"Both left within the past two months -- she left in September and he left in August," said Amy Markland, a Maryland General spokeswoman. She said both had worked at the hospital about a year but declined to provide details about how or why they left.

Neighbors remembered Koval as a kind man, called "Mr. George" by many residents, who appeared devoted to the Reid children and often took care of them.

"The little girl [Venice] went either to a baby sitter's or with Mr. George," said Phyllis Joseph, a neighbor whose child was a playmate of Michael.

"I would see George at the supermarket, at the thrift store," said Turners Station resident Lisa Parmely, who visits Willow Court regularly to see her mother. "He was a nice guy."

Reid and Koval lived relatively quietly until about six weeks ago, Parmely and other neighbors said, when Koval disappeared.

"They were basically two people who lived here who didn't bother anybody," Parmely said yesterday. "Until there was no more George and she started borrowing money from people," including Parmely's mother.

"Somebody asked her where George was. She said, 'George is not feeling well, he has bleeding ulcers,' " Parmely recalled.

Sun staff researcher Jean Packard contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 10/13/99

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