NORTH VERNON — A social services professional who died in a Friday morning fire succumbed to smoke inhalation while trying to escape her single-story home, Jennings County Deputy Coroner James Fletcher said Monday.
An autopsy was conducted Sunday on Tijera Ann “T.J.” Waggoner, who was 59.
First-responders found the wife of attorney Charles Waggoner in the garage of their home on Persimmon Drive, near Jennings County Middle School on North Vernon’s west side, Fletcher said.
Fletcher said he believes she was trying to escape the house when she succumbed to the smoke. Paramedics who arrived at the scene also suspect she might have been trying to rescue her pet, which also died in the fire.
A spokesman for the North Vernon Fire Department said that while investigators believe they know where the blaze originated, that information will be withheld until the investigation is complete. While fire officials have not yet released a damage estimate, the home is believed to be a total loss.
The city’s fire department is working with the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office on a cause of the fire but North Vernon fire investigator Brian Horton said all future information concerning the fatal fire will be released through the city’s police department.
North Vernon Police detective Ivory Sandefur said he expects to provide additional details “in the next couple days.” He said investigators are waiting for the results of a number of tests to come back before they make further public statements.
T.J. Waggoner held a Master’s degree in education and had been a site director for Human Services Inc. in Columbus. She also had worked for the Head Start program in both Decatur and Brown counties.
Her husband, who has served as legal counsel for a number of governmental boards and commissions, was named Jennings County United Way’s 2011 Volunteer of the Year.
T.J. Waggoner was the mother of four grown children, and she had six grandchildren.
Visitation for Tijera Ann "T.J." Waggoner will begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the First Baptist Church of North Vernon. It will continue until the 2:30 p.m. memorial service.