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Private crime laboratory to run tests on clothing of man who died in 2013 post office fire

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The clothing of a homeless man killed in a fire at the downtown Fairbanks post office will be tested by a private lab as part of an ongoing investigation of the blaze early last year.

Johnny Wallis, 59, was found on fire on the floor of the post office on the night of Jan. 1, 2013. He died four days later. He was wearing a shirt, a hooded sweat shirt and two jackets.

Mayor John Eberhart learned last month that Fairbanks police had not sent the clothing to the state crime lab in Anchorage, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1sCjojJ) reported Thursday.

The clothing would not have been accepted, police said, because it had been sprayed with a fire extinguisher.

After meeting with Wallis' family and Alaska Native leaders, Eberhart asked police to send the clothing to the independent lab.

When Interim Police Chief Brad Johnson told Eberhart the state lab, as expected, would not accept the clothing, police obtained a cost quote for analysis from the private lab that specializes in fire investigations.

The city will pay about $2,000 for testing by Forensic Scientific Testing Inc. in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Eberhart told City Council members that expectations should be tempered regarding the results.

"I think we owe it to the family and to others to send those clothes out and get them tested," he said.

The city previously called for witnesses to come forward. Police have not identified a man seen with Wallis by bystanders.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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