Double-Fatal Fire Looks Like Arson

Mother, son killed in Arlington Heights fire; father in critical condition

Police say they knew shortly after arriving at an early-morning fire at a home in Arlington Heights that something was suspicious. Now they're investigating the blaze as arson. 

Two people are dead and a third seriously injured after fire blazed through a single-family home.  Police got the related 911 call at about 3:30 a.m.

Eleven-year-old boy, Garrett Finnerty, and his 41-year-old mother, Patricia Finnerty, were killed.  They were each found in their bedrooms in the upstairs of the house.

Patricia's husband and the couple's other two children were uninjured, but the father, Kevin Finnerty, 46, is in critical condition in the burn unit at Loyola University Medical Center.  Police say Finnerty had trauma injuries to his head, which he may have sustained during the fire.He was found in the kitchen of the home.

"It's very possible he was trying to get out of that (kitchen) door," Arlington Heights Police Cmdr. Ken Galinsky said.

Galinsky said burn patterns in the home led to the fire being classified as arson.  He said police were unable to enter the home upon arrival "due to the intense flames and heat" from the fire.

"It was a very intense fire," Arlington Heights Fire Chief Glenn Ericksen said. "The patterns that we observed inside led us to believe that it may not be of an accidental nature." 

Correcting previous reports that one of the children made the initial call to police, NBC5 learned that a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old escaped to the roof of the house during the fire.  The older child jumped from the roof and ran to a neighbor's home, where the neighbor called police. Both of the surviving children are said to be in good condition.

"The young lady said she woke up to get a drink of water and went back to bed. She heard a pop. Her brother got up and heard a popping noise (and) smelled the smoke" Galinsky said. "And it was actually the 6-year-old's idea to get out of the window.

Neighbors said Kevin Finnerty is a well-known watercolor artist who had a booth at Art Fest in Arlington Height's last weekend, according to The Daily Herald. 

"He was becoming a very accomplished artist and his business was growing, which was wonderful," Cindy Erickson said, adding that the Finnertys were a "very, very wonderful family." 

"He was a local artist," who did work for corporations, said neighbor Guy Silagi. "It's going to effect the entire community, because the entire community is so close."

Patricia Finnerty worked full-time as a guidance counselor at Libertyville High School. A statement issued Tuesday afternoon by the co-principal of the school read:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Trish Finnerty and the horrible tragedy that has impacted her family. In the year that she worked at our school, she formed incredible bonds with our students and staff. She was a valued staff member, and has formed many relationships with our parents and students, and was instrumental in helping our seniors gain admission to college. She will be deeply missed and her family continues to be in our thoughts and prayers.

"They were a normal family, a wonderful family," said Doris Cowman, neighbor. "There was nothing to indicate any problem. They were just your everyday little wonderful family with three kids."

Tom McDonnell, a family friend, told the Herald that he was in shock when he heard news of the fire.

"They are a wonderful family who couldn't be nicer people," McDonnell said. "The whole thing about all this - what can you say."

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