MAN DIES IN BLAZE

Detectives Investigate Fatal Fire

By Margarita Martin-Hidalgo
The Ledger
margarita.martin-hidalgo@theledger.com

FORT MEADE -- Polk County Sheriff's Office detectives are investigating the death of a Fort Meade man who was inside his home when a fire broke out Friday.

George Taylor, who according to a close friend had lived in the area for more than 30 years, was found dead inside his home after firefighters arrived to put out the blaze, said Fort Meade police Lt. Rick Breem.

The cause of death was unknown at press time. Capt. Joe Halman Jr. of the Polk County Sheriff's Office said deputies are conducting a "death investigation."

Halman said deputies had to wait for the autopsy results to determine whether there was foul play involved.

Little was known about the incident Friday.

Breem said flames were coming out of the front door of the house when firefighters arrived, making it impossible for them to enter the home.

There were smoke stains around the front door and several exterior window frames of the cream-colored home at 321 S. Charleston Ave.

Neighbors, friends and acquaintances huddled in small groups near the house as police investigated the scene in a light drizzle.

Lebert Beckford, a friend of Taylor, said the Jamaican-born man kept to himself and had recently been talking about going back to his homeland.

Beckford, also a Jamaican native, said he had known Taylor since 1963.

Taylor, he said, relied on others to help him buy groceries and take care of himself because he had one leg amputated. Beckford said he thought Taylor had developed gangrene on the leg.

Beckford said he was surprised to learn his friend had died.

"Last week, he was talking about making it down to his family in Jamaica," said Beckford, 72. He had just seen Taylor last week.

"He was an all-right guy," said Beck-ford.

Margarita Martin-Hidalgo can be reached at margarita.martinhidalgo@theledger.com or 863-401-6967.