Investigators have determined that there were no explosives used to start the massive fire that sent nine police officers to the hospital and left the man who held his wife hostage for several days dead inside a garage on the North Haven property.
Sources said that fire officials haven’t determined how the blaze started but said there were flammable materials including propane to gasoline to chlorine containers in the area that would have fueled the fire.
The state police also have ruled out that any members of the SWAT team that were searching the property caused the fire. None of their weapons were fired during the standoff, state police have determined.
The officers were in the middle of searching the buildings behind the house at 385 Quinnipiac Avenue when the explosion occurred. The officers were surrounding the garage and were about 10-15 feet away from the structure when it exploded.
Police didn’t know that the man was in the garage and were unsure if he was still at the property. The dead man has not been identified.
The owners of the home are John and Deborah Sayre, records show.
An officer had gone up to the garage and knocked out a window and heard someone inside it yell before the explosion occurred. There are several buildings on the property including a barn where a boat was stored, a shed-like building and a trailer.
The garage area where the man’s body was found had an automobile lift in it as well as at least to cars and a motorcyle. There also were several other cars on the property as well as other equipment that seems to indicate that the owner was doing some sort of automobile repair operation in the property.
Nine officers injured during the explosion and by Friday all but two East Haven officers had been released from the hospital. There were three North Haven officers injured, five East Haven officers and a Branford officer.
The South Central Connecticut Regional SWAT team consists of officers from several towns — North Haven, East Haven, Madison, Branford, North Branford and Guilford. North Haven Captain Kevin Glenn is the commanding officer.
Glenn said the unit has 24 officers, five paramedics and a trauma surgeon from Yale-New Haven Hospital assigned to the team. All 24 officers responded to the scene Wednesday night, Glenn said.
The state police Central District Crime Squad and Fire and Explosions Investigation Unit have taken over the investigation.
d that they believe she was held hostage in her own home for several days and was beaten and burned before escaping on Wednesday afternoon.
Deborah Sayre filed for divorce from her husband of more than 40 years, John, on April 18, court records show.
Sources said the victim escaped and contacted North Haven police about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, bringing police to the Quinnipiac Avenue home.
Officers spent several hours trying to get the woman’s estranged husband out, but as the standoff progressed, a barn on the property exploded, touching off a massive fire.
Authorities early Thursday found human remains in the rubble. They did not identify the remains and said an autopsy needed to be performed by the office of the chief state medical examiner.
The medical examiner had still not identified the man on Friday. They are trying to find dental records to assist in the identification because it was burned so badly.
In the divorce filing Deborah Sayre filed said the “marriage had broken down irretrievably.” She did not elaborate. He was scheduled to answer in court Tuesday. The couple married on Sept. 24, 1977, in New Haven.
According to the court filing, she was not seeking alimony and asked the court for a “fair division of property and debt.” The filing said for now they were representing themselves and that there were no children under 23 in the household.
Neighbors said they kept their distance from John Sayre. Reclusive at home, the plumber was often confrontational when he did show himself. Once, when a neighbor witnessed him screaming at an elderly couple about their dog being on his property, the neighbor tried to calm him, and suggested he should not be screaming at older people.
“ ‘ You’re taking their side,’” the neighbor said he shouted back.
Neighbor John Marotto has lived in his house since 1983, three years before the Sayres moved in in 1986. The couple would raise three now-grown children in the home.
Marotto said he last talked to Sayre a year ago — he said the man was prone to getting into petty squabbles with his neighbors.
John Sayre was “a recluse,” prone to getting into “yard arguments,” said Marotto.
Neighbors said he put signs around his property warning people to keep out. At one point his yard had been littered with ceramic toilets and sinks, and 55-gallon drums.
In contrast, a neighbor described Deborah Sayre, who was 18 when she married John, as happy-go-lucky, gentle and cordial.
Her last Facebook post, on April 24, reads, “It’s ok to not be ok. Some days are just harder than others.”
Courant reporter Matthew Ormseth contributed to this story.