Police: Wife who was found dead after Inverness fire had shot herself

An Inverness woman whose body was recovered from her burning home Sunday afternoon died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, while her husband's death in the fire is still under investigation, authorities said Monday.

Inverness Police Chief Bob Haas said 82-year-old Marlene Pieracci was found inside a vehicle in the garage of the home on the 200 block of Bradwell Road.

Her husband, 84-year-old Mario Pieracci, was found in the living area of the house and appears to have died as a result of the fire, Haas said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but police do not believe there was foul play involving someone outside the home, Haas added.

"We can't tell if it was purposely set or accidental," Haas said. "We're still trying to put the pieces together. There's no indication of why this would have happened."

Palatine Rural Fire Protection District firefighters called to the residence at 4:48 p.m. Sunday arrived to find heavy flames and smoke at the back of the split-level home, Fire Chief Rich May said.

"They were somewhat hampered by the amount of snow piled up around the house, but they were able to get (hose) lines up and knock down the fire in under 20 minutes," May said.

They pulled Mario Pieracci from the home, but efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Firefighters did not find Marlene Pieracci as quickly because the garage was not on fire and their first priority was areas of the house threatened by flames, Haas said. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Cook County medical examiner's office.

The fire department's investigation is ongoing, and officials will be meeting with the state fire marshal Tuesday. Nothing has been ruled out, May said.

The Pieraccis had lived in the house for at least 40 years, next-door neighbor Tom Kennedy said Monday.

He was introduced to them through his wife of 8½ years, Lynn Ridge, who still lives in the house she grew up in and knew the Pieraccis since childhood, Kennedy said.

"They're very close to my wife's family," he said. "My mother-in-law was over there Saturday."

Kennedy first learned of the fire when he looked out a window Sunday and saw the emergency vehicles outside the Pieraccis' home. He and his wife went out to see Mario being brought out onto the driveway, where paramedics tried to resuscitate him.

Kennedy said Mario Pieracci had retired about 20 years ago from his work as a house painter, and Marlene had been a homemaker. They raised two sons, who now live in California and Nevada.

"Mario was someone who just worked around the house," Kennedy said. "He was proud of the fact that he could fix things. They both did a lot of work on their property."

Though Mario could often handle the removal of snow with his snowblower, Kennedy said his wife went over to help clear a lot of it herself during the weekend's snowstorm.

Ridge's prior husband had died 18 years ago and her brother died last September, Kennedy said. In both cases, Mario and Marlene were sources of support for her and the rest of the family,

"They were the best neighbors anyone could have," he said. "They were always concerned for us. I know my wife's son and daughter are devastated over this."

Two Christmases ago, Mario wore a Santa suit to entertain Kennedy's grandchildren. He also was a skilled crossword puzzle solver, often finishing within 15 minutes.

Kennedy said he and Ridge had tried to reach the Pieraccis about 3 p.m. Sunday because they were going to paint a piece of furniture and wanted Mario's advice. They left a voicemail and expected to see or hear from him within a few hours.

Apart from their sons out West, the Pieraccis are survived by Mario's twin sister, who still lives in the house where they both grew up in Elmwood Park, and Marlene's sister, who lives out of state, Kennedy said.

• Daily Herald staff writer Charles Keeshan contributed to this report

  An Inverness couple died Sunday after fire broke out at their home on the 200 block of Bradwell Road. The cause of the fire remained under investigation Monday, but 82-year-old Marlene Pieracci was found to have shot herself. Mark Welsh/
  Tom Kennedy talks fondly about his next-door neighbors Mario and Marlene Pieracci, who died Sunday after fire broke out in their Inverness home. An autopsy determined that Marlene had fatally shot herself. Mark Welsh/
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