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No answers yet in Highland Park fire

Updated: December 9, 2012 1:15AM

HIGHLAND PARK — Police still are awaiting results of DNA tests to identify a man burned beyond recognition in a house fire on Sept. 25 and evidence from the Highland Park home to determine whether an accelerant was used to ignite the blaze.

“We’re at a point now we need some results back,” Highland Park Deputy Chief George Pfutzenreuter said. “Investigators are following up with the leads they have.”

Samples from the home were sent to the Northern Illinois Crime Lab for analysis and could take weeks to process, he said.

Pfutzenreuter would not say whether the fire, which was so hot it started burning a house just to the south and ignited the grass, is being investigated as a homicide.

“I’m not going to go there. It’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.

Lake County Coroner Artis Yancey said that DNA samples of the victim were sent by the Major Crime Task Force to the Northern Illinois Crime Lab, which takes longer to process than the private DNA lab he typically uses.

In initial reports, Yancey said the body of the male did not have gunshot wounds or anything else that would indicate foul play.

Neighbors of the gutted house at 1788 Midland Ave., said the man who died in the fire likely was the owner of Trattoria Giacomo Restaurant in Highwood. Giacomo Ruggirello has owned the Italian restaurant in a strip mall across from Fort Sheridan since 1998.

The house, at the corner of Sherwood and Midland, remains cordoned off with temporary fencing, Pfutzenreuter said. The middle section of the roof collapsed into the center of the house and many of the walls were burned away.

Highland Park Fire Department crews responded to the fire call at 12:42 a.m. and found the home engulfed in flames.

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