A woman's body was found Wednesday in the burned shell of a Manorville home whose owner owed Suffolk County more than $276,000 in back taxes and was due in court to answer an eviction notice, according to fire department and county officials.
The victim was found inside 218 Eastport-Manor Road, with a dead dog covering her body, fire and police officials said.
Firefighters found homeowner Charles Woolsey standing outside the two-story burning house in a dazed state, Fitzpatrick said. According to The Associated Press, he was asking about his wife Georgianna. First assistant chief Howard Snow of the Manorville Fire Department said Woolsey told fire officials he didn't know where his wife was. Authorities didn't immediately identify the body found in the fire.
Suffolk Police Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, several 911 calls reported flames at the house. When first responders arrived at the foot of the home's long driveway, they were initially delayed by a locked gate, fire officials said.
After Woolsey spoke to firefighters, he collapsed and was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue for treatment of smoke inhalation, police said. The hospital would not disclose information on his condition Wednesday night.
Woolsey was to appear in Sixth District Court in Patchogue Wednesday to answer the county's eviction notice, said county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter.
The county took over Woolsey's deed in October 2010 after he failed to pay taxes since 2005, according to the county. He had owned the 15-acre property since 1984.
Woolsey was given six months to save his home and he filed paperwork to try to save his house on April 5, 2011, then failed to make any payments. The property was set to be auctioned later this year.
News footage showed a painted message on the roof of the house that read in part, "We won't submit to your" and the word "threat," as well as other words destroyed by the fire.
Neighbors described the couple as recluses, with Woolsey sometimes filming the movements of nearby residents.
"I've seen him many times. He didn't talk to anyone," said neighbor Richard Monte. Neighbor Amanda Valentim said gunshots were often heard coming from the property.
Woolsey filed for bankruptcy in May 2011, according to court records. Then in October 2011, he filed a federal suit against Suffolk County, seeking "the return of my property because it was taken unjustly," and asking for $2 million in losses and $5 million in punitive damages.
On Feb. 28, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Brown issued a recommendation to dismiss the case, calling it "preposterous." Woolsey had until this week to file objections.
The pending suit, which includes photos of incidents he describes as harassment by neighbors and others, accuses police and town officials of thwarting his vineyard operation, known in his bankruptcy records as "Atlantic Vineyards."
Woolsey spelled out his efforts to photograph vandalism, ward off animals with a propane cannon and a shotgun, and to record trespassing with security cameras. He had bought the property because it was "an ideal site for a vineyard," the suit said.
Fitzpatrick said Woolsey was "known" to the department for past incidents, but declined to specify them.
With Joseph Mallia