Family upset with investigation into man found dead months after Dayton house fire

James “Jimmy” Briscoe, whose body went undiscovered for months in the basement of a vacant Dayton home torched in a suspicious blaze, apparently died from fire, autopsy results revealed Monday.

But family members don’t think enough is being done to learn how Briscoe, who had been reported missing, ended up in the fire.

His sister Donna Briscoe said family members are frustrated with a lack of communication and don’t believe Dayton police and fire officials are working hard enough to learn how her brother got into the basement of the boarded-up house at 128 S. Irwin St. that burned in December.

“Somebody murdered my brother … There’s too much foul play involved,” Donna Briscoe said Monday. “No one has come to me since they found Jimmy dead. No one has contacted me. No one has tried to get in touch with me or my mother.”

Smoke inhalation caused the death of Briscoe, 41, according to the autopsy. Tests also detected an intoxicating level of methamphetamine in Briscoe’s system, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

The manner of Briscoe’s death — whether a homicide or accidental — remains unruled, said Chris Williams, the coroner’s office director of operations on Monday.

Most likely, Briscoe died in the Irwin Street fire, Williams said.

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“It certainly looks that way,” he said. “If you have a bunch of soot in your trachea, that’s going to be an indicator. But ultimately they are going to count on the totality of the report.”

Reported missing in December, Briscoe’s fate wasn’t known until April 27 when a man dialed 911 and told a dispatcher he had stumbled across something while looking for his dog that had wandered into the burned house.

“I went to the basement and it’s a dead body,” the caller, identified as John Metcalf, told a dispatcher.

Briscoe’s family and friends questioned why his body wasn’t discovered in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

“How did the fire department overlook that?” said Eva-Joy Humphreys, a longtime girlfriend of Jimmy Briscoe’s, soon after the discovery.

Donna Briscoe thinks she knows how her brother ended up in the house: “I believe Jimmy was lured into that basement. My brother never went in to any basement of an abandoned home.”

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While known to use methamphetamines, Jimmy Briscoe had been sober since early December and was sober when he left his sister’s house the evening of Dec. 22, Donna Briscoe said.

She also wonders whether someone didn’t fill her brother with methamphetamines.

“For them to say his body was full of methamphetamines, I don’t understand that,” she said. “Maybe someone did that to him.”

Briscoe had a record that included drug offenses and robbery, and he had served time in prison after being convicted of aggravated assault in 2011.

This news organization in May requested the results of any internal inquiry into the post-fire investigation. Fire administration reviewed the actions taken during the incident but did not generate any documentation.

“Reviewing the actions of our crews at structure fires are routine and seldom result in a written report,” wrote Dayton spokeswoman Toni Bankston in May.

The city indicated in May that the Dayton Fire Department’s investigative unit was looking into the fire’s cause and origin while police were conducting an investigating into the circumstances related to the discovery of Briscoe’s body. Messages sent to the city on Monday seeking the status of investigations were not immediately returned.

“There’s not enough being done to get my brother justice. Because there’s been no further investigation that I know of,” Donna Briscoe said. “Me and my mother are up in the air with everything.”

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