Coroner makes tentative ID on body found after fire in Rantoul

Coroner makes tentative ID on body found after fire in Rantoul

RANTOUL — The Champaign County coroner's office has tentatively identified the man whose body was found in the rubble of a burned-out Rantoul mobile home Sept. 4 as William Shawn Richardson, 21 of Rantoul.

Coroner Duane Northrup said Friday that he cannot positively identify Mr. Richardson as the man who died until DNA test results are available.

"Due to the physical condition of the remains when found, a 100 percent positive identification can only be accomplished through DNA comparison," Northrup said.

The coroner said he made the tentative identification based on evidence collected during the autopsy, information gathered from Rantoul Police Department investigators and information provided by family members.

Northrup said DNA was taken from the body and will be compared with DNA samples taken from Mr. Richardson's parents.

It will take 30 to 60 days to complete the testing, the coroner said.

"There is no information at this time contradicting the belief the remains are Shawn Richardson," Northrup said, adding that the decision was made to assist Mr. Richardson's family with funeral arrangements "without lengthy delay" by releasing the body to the funeral home after all forensic evidence had been obtained.

Rantoul Police Department and the coroner's office continue to investigate the case.

Police had been searching for Mr. Richardson after another man, Brandon A.F. Young, who is homeless, said another man had set the trailer on fire in the 1200 block of Cypress Lane in the Heritage Estates mobile home park.

The mobile home was destroyed Aug. 22.

Young has been charged with arson and remains in custody in the Champaign County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bond.

Young told authorities that he and another man were in the mobile home park, vandalizing it, and that the other man started to set the mobile home on fire. Young decided to leave.

Rantoul Police Chief Paul Farber said his department "was looking for a Shawn Richardson" for questioning in connection with the fire. He stressed that he was not saying the body was definitely that of Mr. Richardson.

According to police, a witness was in the front yard when Young ran up and said he and another person had set fire to the mobile home.

A second witness told police that Young and another man had been drinking large amounts of vodka earlier in the day. The identity of that man was not released.

Witnesses said they saw two men run from the mobile home after the fire started, according to police.

John Amalio, Heritage Estates manager, said Friday that the body was found under a mattress in the mobile home.

"He was under a mattress," Amalio said. "There were two or three mattresses stacked up there."

The burned trailer was known as a flop house, where a number of people could go and sleep.

Amalio said he didn't know Mr. Richardson well.

"I only talked to him once or twice," Amalio said.

"He didn't cause no trouble there. He wasn't a bad kid, just unsupervised teenagers. He hung around there a lot. He stayed there a lot."

Two weeks after the fire, a Rantoul police detective who is also investigator for the Rantoul Fire Department was at the scene of the burned-out mobile home when he noticed an odor. He then saw what appeared to be a body inside the mobile home.

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