Columbia St. Landlord says city should have released information regarding police call sooner


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Michael Morrisey says his life has been turned upside down ever since word came out that he was cited by the City of Utica with codes violations.

Morrisey was cited with those violations days after the apartment building he owns on Columbia St. in Utica caught fire in the early morning hours of January 23rd.

One of the seven people who lived in the two story structure, 50 year old Jeffery Howarth suffered first and second degree burns to much of his body and died five days later at SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse.

Utica Fire Marshal Gerald Foster says he is waiting for a meeting to be scheduled with the medical examiner to learn the official cause of Howarth's death.

Morrisey says, because he was cited for codes violations, people have been blaming him for what happened.

"It's been hell. I've been put through hell on earth," Morrisey said. "I haven't eaten, I've been suffering, but it's all going to come out. The truth will set me free. I'm not guilty of none of this."

Morrisey pleaded not guilty to the codes violations during his arraignment in Utica City Court on Monday afternoon.

He told NEWSChannel 2 afterward that he is not only not guilty of the codes violations, but says that if the city came out with some pertinent information about a police call to that building just before the fire started, he would not have had to go through the 'hell' that he says he has faced.

"The police were at the residence as a result of a burglary from the man that passed away," Morrisey said. "The cops were called on him, and about five or ten minutes after police left, the fire started."

Fire Marshal Foster says police were called to that building before the fire began but won't say who the two people were that were involved in that complaint.

"That's part of the investigation, that's where we have to determine if there was any criminal activity between anyone in the structure prior to the fire," Foster said. "But again that's part of the ongoing investigation."

When asked if there was anything in the investigation which has led investigators to believe the fire was an arson, Foster responded, "I wouldn't use the word arson, I would use, that there might be some questionable activity that was in the apartment or in the structure at the time of the fire, or prior to the fire."

Utica Police so far have not commented on the their initial call to the building the morning of the fire, but Police Spokesperson Steve Hauck says the department is involved in the investigation of the fire, but the involvement is secondary to the Utica Fire Department's investigation.

Morrisey is due back in Utica City Court to face the codes violations again on Monday, February 11th.

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