Police join investigation of apartment fire death

Fire investigators still don't know what caused the fire, and the police are checking some unusual details.

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Yvonne Clauson walks her dog, Princess. The dog was not in the apartment when Clauson died in the fire.

WALLA WALLA - The investigation continues into the death of a 27-year-old woman who died in an apartment fire Thursday.

Yvonne Clauson was found laying on the ground a few feet from the entrance to her living room, facing away from the door to her smoke-filled apartment at 204 N. Spokane.

On Friday, officials reported that Clauson died of smoke inhalation and that the fire started in her bedroom.

"We just don't know what started it in the bedroom. She was a smoker and there were candles and we did find a lighter in the bedroom," Fire Chief Bob Yancey said, adding that investigators ruled out any electrical causes.

The Walla Walla Police Department is now investigating Clauson's death. That investigation will include looking into a number of unusual details reported by neighbors.

A number of people said they saw an unidentified man leaving Clauson's apartment sometime before the fire.

Neighbors also reported first hearing the faint sounds of a smoke detector at around 11:30 a.m., more than three hours before Clauson's body was discovered by firefighters.

"We have been made aware of most of that information," Sgt. Matt Wood said, adding the family members have provided other information.

"We have been contacted by the victim's mother and family members, and they brought some information to our attention that they would like us to check out, and we are doing that. We are talking to people who knew her and associated with her, and it is under investigation," Wood said.

Neighbors also questioned how Clauson's dog managed to be put outside prior to the fire.

Princess, a greyhound and Chihuahua mix, was last seen outside of Clauson's apartment without her owner sometime between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m.

"A lot of things don't make sense about the things I heard. They don't add up," Paul Lambert said, who lives above Clauson's apartment.

Lambert and another neighbor, Korinne Young, both said they saw Clauson's dog outside and alone prior to the fire.

"Her little dog was her world to her," Young said, noting how the woman would often walk Princess around the neighborhood.

"She always seemed very happy. We gave her the nickname ‘Giggles,'" Young said.

It is unclear what happened to Clauson's dog.

Police and the Blue Mountain Humane Society reported not having the dog.

The Coroner's Office has ordered toxicology reports on Clauson, and police are now trying to identify the man who left her apartment before the fire.

"That is one of the things that police are helping us follow up on, but until we can determine who the individual is who people saw earlier, we probably will never now why she put the dog out," Yancey said.

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