Seal Beach police have closed their investigation into a suspicious 2016 fire that left a man dead, they said on Monday, June 20, and named a suspect who died in 2020 while behind bars for an unrelated arrest.
John Donnelly was 67 when he became trapped in the second-floor of a duplex on the 200 block of 17th Street six years ago on April 30. He and his dog, a Jack Russell terrier, were killed.
In the weeks following the fire, investigators found accelerant outside of the unit’s stairwell, which led them to believe the fire was intentionally set. Seal Beach police, in a press release, identified William Pratt as the suspect in a “cold case arson homicide.” He was 60 when he died.
Officials declined to go into detail on Monday regarding how Pratt was linked to the fire, any relationship he may have had with Donnelly or what his motives might have been.
“I wouldn’t say they were friends,” Seal Beach police Lt. Nick Nicholas said.
The two had met at least once before the fire took place, Nicholas said. Something occurred during that prior exchange that may have caused Pratt to want to harm Donnelly, the lieutenant said.
Police described Pratt as homeless and known to frequent Seal Beach. He was in custody following an unrelated arrest when he was killed by another inmate on Aug. 7, 2020.
Further details regarding Pratt’s death were not immediately released. It was unclear where he was in custody at the time.
Neighbors described Donnelly as a friendly man who would ride around town on his bike with his dog, Eddie, seated in a milk crate strapped to the handlebars. He loved animals, and often volunteered for Seal Beach Animal Care.
Source: Orange County Register