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03-02-06 Carbon monoxide is blamed for area death

By Shelley Grieshop

  A 46-year-old St. Marys woman is dead and her husband is hospitalized apparently due to carbon monoxide poisoning in their home.

  Lynn E. Houts Sharpe was pronounced dead at the home at 934 Columbia St. on Wednesday afternoon shortly after emergency crews were summoned to the residence by a 911 call. An official cause of death is pending an autopsy at the Montgomery County Coroner's Office.

  Her husband, Michael J. Sharpe, 56, was taken to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys, and later transferred by LifeFlight helicopter to Lima Memorial Hospital where he was listed in fair condition this morning.

  The couple's son, Robert M. Houts, 20, who also resides in the home, is believed to be the person who called for help at 4:41 p.m., after finding his mother and stepfather in the master bedroom and unable to be awakened.

  Houts also was taken to the St. Marys hospital for treatment and later released, the St. Marys Police report said.  St. Marys Fire Chief Ken Cline told The Daily Standard this morning his department took carbon monoxide tests in the home, which is rented by the Sharpes. Firefighters obtained "very high" readings for the toxic chemical, he said.

  "Of course there were different readings throughout the house, but some were extreme," said Cline.

  The home is owned by James A. Speckman of New Bremen.

  Kline said the residence was heated soley by a gas furnace, and no other alternate heat sources were found. Officials would not comment on whether the furnace was working properly.

  St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven said a preliminary investigation revealed no foul play.

  "At this point, everything points to carbon monoxide poisoning," he said. "It's a sad situation."

  Lynn Sharpe had been an employee at Bartlett's Drive Thru in St. Marys for the last six years. A partial obituary appears today on page 5A.

  If carbon monoxide is officially determined to be the cause of Sharpe's death, it will be the third such fatality blamed on the odorless killer in a little more than a year in the local area.

  During the ice storm of January 2005, Cletus and Mary Frankenberg of rural New Knoxville died from carbon monoxide poisoning while using a portable generator in their basement. The Frankenbergs, both in their 70s, were attempting to supply electric to their rural farmhouse, but their generator was mistakenly placed indoors where it was not vented.

  Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). About 1,500 people die annually due to accidental carbon monoxide exposure and an additional 10,000 seek medical attention.


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