Family IDs remains of Forks fire victim

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — Family members have identified the body of a man found in house trailer that was destroyed in a Dec. 16 fire as Mike Walter Schulze, 54, a self-employed mechanic who lived at the Palmer Road residence.

Schulze’s mother, Dolores Smothers, who lived on the same property as her son, said family members had identified the remains as Schulze.

“We accepted it was him,” she said in a telephone interview.

“Everyone in the family knew he was the only one who lived there.”

Authorities are “99.9 percent sure” that the body is that of Schulze, said Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

Benedict cautioned earlier this week that too much should not be made of a doctor’s inability to identify the badly burned remains of the person who was found near the bedroom of the trailer.

“I am 99.9 percent sure, and everyone else is sure, that it is Mike Schulze [pronounced Schultzee], the person who was living in that mobile home,” Benedict said.

“The criteria we use in law enforcement is 100 percent certainty.

“There’s nothing that makes me think it’s anyone but him.”

Benedict said it appears the fire started near a wood stove.

Schulze likely was asleep or did not respond when the blaze began, and then probably died from smoke inhalation, Benedict said.

Schulze’s sister gave authorities DNA evidence to help them identify the remains as her brother’s, Smothers said.

Benedict said DNA identification of the remains would take four to six weeks.

“If they thought there was something fishy going on, we would go for a much quicker turnaround,” Benedict said.

“There is nothing fishy here,” he said.

“As tragic as this is, we are talking about an administrative routine issue to be absolutely, positively sure.”

The 853 Palmer Road fire off Calawah Way east of Forks was called in at 7:27 a.m. Dec. 19.

West End county Fire District No. 1 firefighters responded.

According to initial reports to District 1 personnel, Schulze’s vehicle was not at the residence at the time of the blaze.

Family members later said his vehicle was there.

“He worked hard,” his mother said.

“He had his own shop right there.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 25. 2012 4:57PM
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