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Neighbors remember woman found dead inside burning Middlebury home

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An Elkhart County woman was found dead inside her home north of Middlebury early Wednesday.

Middlebury firefighters responded to a call of a house fire in the 11000 block of County Raod 4 just after midnight.

Firefighters found the body of 69-year-old Lona Chutsch, known to neighbors as "Jeannie," inside the home.

There was very little fire, but heavy smoke.

"It was the husband that called," says Assistant Fire Chief Bill Phillips. "He was also home at the time, was able to get out, along with some animals, but was unable to get to her apparently."

News of the fire and discovery of the victim was upsetting to one neighbor who heard sirens and saw emergency equipment head to the home.

"I knew her health wasn't in good shape," says the neighbor Serena. "I had this gut feeling, that she did die. I called my mom because it was so heavy on my mind. I called mom and I told her, I am not sure what is going on, but I had the feeling Jeannie died."

Serena says they were a quiet couple, who pretty much kept to themselves, but she knew the woman was a pet lover, and quite often gave Serena's horses treats.

"She spoiled our horses," Serena says. "When her health was in good shape, she came everyday and you could always figure about five o'clock p.m., she would come with a handful of carrots. She was a big time pet lover, I know she loved pets."

Police say early indications show no suspicious activity surrounding the fire or death.

The coroner's office agreed and said they are waiting for toxicology and tissue results.

The following is a release from the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department:

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Middlebury-Elkhart County Sheriff's Detectives are continuing to investigate the death of a 69 year old female who was found deceased inside of her home earlier this morning. At approximately12:16am, Sheriff's Deputies were called to the scene of a house fire that had occurred at 11494 CR 4 in Middlebury. Upon officers' arrival, it was found that 69 year old Lona J. Chutsch was found deceased inside of her home, which had caught fire. Sheriff's Detectives are working with the Indiana State Fire Marshall's office to assist in determining the cause of the fire and are working with the Elkhart County Coroner's office to help determine the cause of death. An autopsy has been scheduled for today. Early indications of the investigation show no suspicious activities surrounding the fire of the home or the death of the victim.

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