Harding St. fire victim identified

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A man who was killed last Friday in a fire on the city's northwest side has been identified.

The Marion County coroner identified the victim as William Graves. The Marion County coroner has found that Graves died from asphyxia due to smoke and soot inhalation. His death was ruled accidental.

It started around 6:00 a.m. at a neighborhood convenience store with a house attached near Pruitt and Harding Street. By the time firefighters arrived, they said the blaze was so intense, they were immediately on the defensive.

"It was during that firefight that they had to keep changing strategy because the fire was too heavy for them to get inside and do that primary search," said Rita Reith with the Indianapolis Fire Department.

Once firefighters were able to get the fire under control, they were able to search the building and found the body of a man believed to be in his 50s. Reith said that relatives of the owner, William "JR" Graves, Jr, told them he typically stayed in the attached home two- to three times a week. The coroner confirmed his identity Wednesday.

"He always fixed some lunch or something," said Helen Batts, one of the victim's relatives. "We'd come outside and smoke a cigarette. He was a real outgoing person and he loved children."

William Nowlen of Indianapolis said, "I was in there last night at 8:00 and there were kids everywhere. JR loved the kids and the kids loved him."

"There has never been as good of friend to me as William Graves Junior," added Kevin Perry. "And his whole family and I am going to miss him with all my heart. Man, I can't believe this is happening. I just can't believe this is happening. I just wish I had never got that call [Friday] morning."

Investigators are working to determine what caused the fire that has taken the heart of a neighborhood.