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Update: Port Orchard woman’s death ruled a homicide

A South Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighter walks away from a house on Sidney Avenue where a 47-year-old Port Orchard woman died early Wednesday morning. - Denise Mandeville/Staff Photo
A South Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighter walks away from a house on Sidney Avenue where a 47-year-old Port Orchard woman died early Wednesday morning.
— image credit: Denise Mandeville/Staff Photo

A woman whose body was found in her burned-out home on Sidney Avenue early Wednesday was stabbed before the fire, according to the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office.

A spokesman said Thursday that Linda L. Malcom, 47, died as a result of “multiple sharp-force injuries,” and that the manner of death was homicide.

Port Orchard Police Commander Geoff Marti said Thursday that his office was investigating the death and fire.

“It is our belief that this is the result of a criminal act, and we are pursuing the investigation at this point,” Marti said.

When asked about a neighbor’s report that the popping noises many heard about the time the fire was discovered Wednesday morning could have come from a gun, Marti said his office believed otherwise.

“From all of our interviews, we determined those noises came from the windows being blown out, which is what awakened most people in the area,” he said. “There was no indication of anybody hearing any gunshots.”

Marti said Malcom’s next-door neighbor on the 1100 block of Sidney Avenue called 911 at 3:58 a.m. April 30 to report the fire.

Neighbors said at least two men tried to rouse Malcom when they saw smoke and flames erupting from her home. Brendan Rio, 14, said his father, Don, ran over to the house “but it was already too hot,” he said.

Rio also described hearing “popping noises” around the time that they discovered the fire, which he and other witnesses attributed to the home’s transformers exploding.

South Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighters battled the flames and discovered Malcom’s body inside the home. She is believed to have been alone in the house, and Marti said there were no reports of anyone seen leaving the home around the time of the fire.

At least 12 hours later, officers had the road completely blocked off while they searched the home, the yard and the street for any evidence. Members of the POPD were joined by Washington State Patrol Crime Scene investigators and a specially trained dog from the Seattle Police Department.

Sgt. Dale Schuster said the black lab was known as an “accelerant dog,” trained to sniff out chemicals such as gasoline or other substances used to start and spread a fire.

Port Orchard resident Jack Campbell, who said he was the owner of the home, was watching the investigators late Wednesday afternoon.

“I heard them say it was suspicious, so I was wondering,” Campbell said, adding that he heard there were “marks” discovered on the victim’s body, which officers declined to speak to.

Campbell said he had known Malcom for years, long before he began renting the home to her 11 years ago.

“She was really friendly and a fast talker,” he said, describing the area of neighbors as a tight-knit gang of friends.

Neighbors said Malcom was preparing to move out of the house by today, and that the owner planned to demolish the home. Campbell confirmed he was considering building a new home on the property.

City Community Development Director James Weaver said Wednesday that his office had no demolition permits on file for the property.

Commander Marti said his office had not identified any suspects as of Thursday, but was “interested in talking to anybody that has had contact with Malcom in the last two weeks,” and asked that they contact the POPD at 876-1700.

Staff Writer Aaron Burkhalter contributed to this report.

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