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Hotel Fire in Downtown Reno Kills Six
November 1, 2006

Six people died and another was in critical condition today after a fire raced through a residential hotel in downtown Reno, Nev., late Tuesday night. Dozens of others were injured.Police arrested a woman who was a resident of the hotel today on charges of arson and murder in connection with the fire, which largely gutted the 84-year-old Mizpah Hotel. She was identified as Valerie Moore, 47.

According to firefighters quoted by local news media, the fire started when Ms. Moore place a mattress up against a door and set it ablaze. The fire quickly spread to other parts of the three-story hotel building, located near the city’s casino district.

Fire officials said 60 to 80 people were in the building when the fire broke out at about 10 p.m. local time. By the time firefighters arrived, people were hanging out of windows calling for help.

Others were injured when they jumped from second- and third-story windows as the fire spread. Fire officials said it was possible that more victims will be found in the rubble of a part of the hotel where the roof collapsed.

Police said today that they had not yet determined a motive for setting the fire.

Updated at Friday, November 3, 2006; 10:41 PM

Bodies Recovered in Reno Hotel Fire

RENO, Nev. -- The bodies of six victims of an arson fire at a downtown casino-district hotel have been recovered, and crews searching the rubble could find more, officials said Friday night.

Three bodies were pulled Friday from an annex on the east side of the 84-year-old Mizpah Hotel, fire department spokesman Steve Frady said. Two others were found in the south portion of the historic building late Thursday.

"We haven't been into the most heavily damaged sections of the building," Frady said. "Because two floors collapsed, we don't know what's in that debris."

Another body, that of a man who jumped 30 feet from a second-floor window, was found earlier in the parking lot.

At least 30 people were injured, three critically, in Tuesday night's fire. Police said 60 to 80 people had been inside the 84-year-old, $150-a-week hotel, which mostly served boarders.

The roof collapsed onto at least a dozen rooms on the third floor, preventing searchers from fully examining the hotel until lower floors are shored up to prevent a collapse. A steady rain Friday afternoon further slowed the effort.

Investigators suspect Valerie Moore, a casino cook and paroled murderer who lived at the hotel, started the blaze by igniting a mattress. Moore, 47, was being held without bail on a parole violation while the investigation continues, said Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick, who did not know whether Moore had an attorney

Deaths in Mizpah fire rise to 12 as investigators sift through ruins

12th body was recovered late Tuesday afternoon at the Mizpah Hotel, as investigators continued to look for remains from a Halloween night arson that destroyed the three-story building.

Steve Frady, Reno police and fire spokesman, said more bodies could be discovered as investigators continue their work, which is expected to continue until Thursday.

"There's always that potential until they're done," he said.

Crews on Tuesday were demobilizing as investigators wrapped up their efforts to salvage property. Officials said a great deal of property was salvaged from the rooms and returned to tenants.

A Reno fire investigator returned a suitcase containing $1,000 to resident Stephanie Van Streefkerk, 24, who, with a neighbor, was rescued from a third-story window. Van Streefkerk had thought the cash was destroyed in the fire along with her laptop, manuscripts and personal items. The money was undamaged.

"All she had left was a key to the room and her life," said Reno fire Division Chief Tim Alameda. "Getting that suitcase back to her made my day."

Owners of first-floor shops were allowed to remove items from their businesses, which are closed indefinitely. Frady said all of the shops have smoke and water damage.

No identities have been released of the 12 victims.

Paroled murderer Valerie Moore, 47, remains in the Washoe County Jail without bail on a parole violation related to the fire. Prosecutors are delaying filing charges until the investigation is complete and they know how many people died.

Police say that following a domestic dispute, Moore, a Mizpah resident, leaned mattresses against a resident's door and lighted them on fire. The mattresses had been kept in the hallway after the hotel had changed out furniture in the rooms.

Reno police homicide detectives and federal and local fire investigators have been looking inside the charred and blackened hotel for clues into the behavior and cause of the fire.

Lt. Jon Catalano said this crime scene is different because they have to rule out every possible cause to prove the fire was an arson and then put together who did it.

If, at the end of the investigation, residents are still missing, they will be entered into a national database as missing and endangered people and possible disaster victims, Catalano said. He said detectives have been taking calls from people across the country who said their loved ones had been living at the hotel and are missing, only for detectives to find them elsewhere and in good health.

.November 10, 2006

Six victims of deadly Reno hotel fire identified

RENO - Authorities have released the names of six people killed in the Halloween night arson fire at the Mizpah Hotel in downtown Reno.

Six of the 12 victims were identified in court papers as Gregory Wiltse, Ernest Duarte, Paul Drum Smith, Christopher Covery, Nadine Nicodemus and Phillip Bridges.

Authorities have said that DNA or dental records are needed to identify the remaining victims, who were burned beyond recognition.

Gregory Wiltse, 56, came to Reno a month ago to find a home for himself and his wife, Joan Dosdos, who lives in the Philippines and is seven months pregnant, said Wiltse's brother, Don, of Minnesota.

Don Wiltse said his brother was staying at the Mizpah temporarily until he got organized and could find an apartment.

"He would have been out of there before too much longer," he said, adding that Wiltse was working temporarily as a desk clerk and maintenance person at the hotel.

Gregory Wiltse was taken from a room in the hotel by firefighters, but died at the scene.

Ellen Beebe says her friend, Nadine Nicodemus, had a chronic heart condition and worked as a phlebotomist at a Reno laboratory.

Her body was recovered in a room on the third floor of the hotel's annex.

"She made such an effort to keep going on," Beebe said. "Nadine never complained," Beebe said.

"She would do anything for anybody and was angelic like," she said.

Valerie Moore, 47, a paroled killer who lived at the historic, three-story hotel, was charged Thursday with 12 counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson.

Moore, who worked as a cook at a nearby downtown casino, is accused of starting the blaze by setting a mattress on fire after a dispute with a fellow tenant in the 84-year-old, largely residential hotel with a weekly rate of $150.

She is scheduled to make her initial appearance Monday in Reno Justice Court.

Moore was paroled last year after serving 17 years in a Nevada prison for second-degree murder for killing an unemployed Reno waitress in 1987, state corrections records show.

Crews begin demolition of burned Mizpah Hotel

Posted: 11/10/2006

Demolition of the north side of the Mizpah Hotel, severely damaged from a Halloween arson that killed 12, began Thursday morning when investigators released the building to its owner.

It was unknown how long the demolition would take, as extreme care is needed so the weakened structure won't cause a catastrophic collapse, Reno police and fire spokesman Steve Frady said.

The hotel, at 214 N. Lake St., was built in three phases beginning in 1922. The south side, built in 1925, wasn't as damaged and is expected to remain, said Frady, who did not know what else would be salvageable.

Authorities believe they recovered the 12th and final victim late Tuesday from the hotel after Reno's deadliest fire. Investigators have finished documenting the crime scene, but plans for the structure were unknown. Authorities believe an ignited mattress leaned against a resident's door sparked the deadly fire.

Mizpah owner Fabio Reginato could not be reached Thursday. At the time of the fire, the building had been for sale and was being renovated. Mattresses had been in the hallway after employees had changed them out from the rooms.

Frady said the building's demolition is the owner's responsibility. Currently, city officials have classified the hotel as a "dangerous building."

The fire also indefinitely closed several businesses on the first floor, some of them new shops. Frady said all businesses sustained smoke and water damage. The shops' utilities were hooked up in a central area in the north portion of the residential hotel, where most of the fire damage occurred, Frady said.

It was unknown when those businesses would reopen.

On Thursday, a criminal complaint was filed against Valerie Moore, 47, charging her with 12 counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson. Prosecutors in the charging document also identified six of the 12 victims -- the first time authorities have publicly identified any of the deceased. Police said 83 known residents were in the hotel.

Moore, a paroled murderer, had been in jail on a no-bail parole violation since the morning after the fire. She has declined multiple requests for an interview.

An additional $20,000 was donated from a Wednesday fundraiser for a total of $70,000 so far to help the victims. The Red Cross and ReStart, a local organization that helps the mentally ill and homeless find housing, will use the money to help displaced Mizpah residents, ReStart board member Dali Wiederhoft said.

The donations were about $55,000 short of what's needed to find permanent housing and necessities for up to 100 displaced fire victims.

Wiederhoft said the Red Cross has confirmed that 71 victims have registered for assistance and that more still need to come forward. ReStart has helped move 48 of those victims into an affordable, permanent home during the past four days, she said.

Anyone who would like to drop off a donation, she said, may do so at the ReStart office at 490 Mill St., or may call at 324-2622. She said all donations made specifically to Mizpah victims would reach them.

Wiederhoft said a ReStart staff psychiatrist has been counseling fire victims who remain traumatized.


Memorial Planned For Reno Hotel Fire Victims

Nov 23, 2006 05:16 PM

A memorial service will be held Saturday for victims of Reno's deadliest hotel fire.

Twelve people died and 31 were injured in the Halloween night arson at the historic Mizpah Hotel. 47 year old Valeria Moore, a paroled killer and hotel resident, was arrested and charged with 12 counts of murder.

Saturday's service is scheduled for 2 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church downtown. Of those who died, eight have been identified as Gregory Wiltse, Ernest Duarte, Paul Drum Smith, Christopher Covert, Nadine Nicodemus, Phillip Bridges, Jeremy Wren and Alford Yates. Authorities are hoping the remaining four can be identified through DNA or dental records.


Updated at january 2007

Woman accused of setting deadly Reno hotel fire pleads not guilty

RENO, Nev. The woman accused of setting a deadly Reno, Nevada, hotel fire has pleaded not guilty to arson and multiple counts of first-degree murder.

The blaze killed 12 people and injured 31 others.

Prosecutors accuse Valerie Moore of setting fire to a mattress last Halloween after arguing with another hotel resident.

Authorities are reviewing Moore's mental competency. Outside the courtroom, her defense attorney said Moore has a history of mental illness. The casino cook was paroled in 2005 after serving 17 years in prison for second-degree murder.

Prosecutors are scheduled to tell the court whether they will seek the death penalty in three weeks. Trial is set for next year

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