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Officials: Nothing fishy in fire death

Authorities, unconvinced of theories floating about, believe Jim Purcey died in an accident or suicide.

June 16, 2010|By Michael Miller

Two weeks after author and activist Jim Purcey died in a parking garage fire at his Huntington Beach apartment complex, police said there was "nothing suspicious" about his death.

Supervising Deputy Coroner Dan Aikin of the Orange County Sheriff's Department and Huntington Beach Police Lt. Russell Reinhart said the cause of the May 31 fire was still under investigation. Reinhart said detectives were awaiting the results of a toxicology report, which could take up to two months.

He noted, though, that Purcey's death appeared to be either an accident or suicide.

"There's nothing suspicious about it at this time, but we're still waiting for all those reports before we do anything else with the investigation," Reinhart said.

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A witness called the Huntington Beach Fire Department at 2:55 p.m. May 31 to an underground parking structure at the Pelican Cove apartment complex at 16960 Algonquin St. Firefighters arrived at the structure, where sprinklers had been activated, and put out the fire in about 12 minutes.

Purcey, 59, self-published the book "Am I the Only American Who Thinks This Way?" in 2007 and offered a product called "The Freedom Package" on his website, America In Distress. The package consists of documents showing customers how to stop foreclosure, eliminate debt and circumvent the government in other ways.

"He was writing about things that would be considered Tea Party-esque, maybe even more subversive than that," said Jack Blood, the host of the online program "Deadline Live" on American Freedom Radio.

Days after Purcey's death, his website featured a new page titled "Jim's Tragic Accident," with a message from family members outlining a theory for how the fire started. Purcey, according to the message, had been using alcohol with gasoline to clear varnish build-up that had accumulated in his Mercedes-Benz, and in the process, placed several fuel containers in the front seat of his other car.

At some point, then, Purcey entered the other car and, while attempting to answer his cell phone, may have accidentally turned on his cigarette lighter, causing the car to go up in flames. The message states that this theory is "logical" and within the findings of the coroner and police investigations.

Reinhart said he couldn't verify the explanation, but called it unconvincing.

"I'm not saying it's wrong or false," he said. "It's just not from us, and it doesn't appear realistic."

Blood, whose show is based in Austin, Texas, said he would wait until the final reports came in to make up his mind on Purcey's death. In the meantime, he was mourning a friend.

"Jim was really a good guy," he said. "If something like that happened to me, I'd want to know that the due diligence was done."

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