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article imageFamily discovers woman's death on Facebook after tragic fire Special

By Angela Atkinson     Jan 24, 2014 in Crime
When 45-year-old Leah Tarkington passed away on Jan. 16, there was confusion about her death. Tarkington's body had been found inside a shed in the yard of her father’s home after firefighters extinguished a large fire late that afternoon.
But it wasn't until the next day, when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a brief article that identified her, that the family learned it was Tarkington’s body inside the shed. It had been burned beyond recognition.
“They released the information before (my father and her children) knew it was her,” said Bridget Blair, Tarkington’s sister. “Her kids found out on Facebook, and our dad found out from the 10:00 news.”
She added that the police told her they originally thought she might have tried to hang herself, but the autopsy revealed no ligature strangulation marks.
“They weren’t supposed to release her name until the family knew, and whoever wrote the story published it the next morning or afternoon—then it went viral all over Facebook and everything else,” Blair said. “Her kids found out on Facebook.”
Blair added that some of the news sources indicated that Tarkington’s death was a suicide, but that hadn’t yet been determined when those reports ran, she said.
“The detectives just called me and said they have deemed it accidental,” Blair said. “The police are not saying she caused the fire.”
She said she didn’t know how the Post-Dispatch had taken the photo it published with the story. The gasoline found in the garage was determined to have come from old fuel that was in a tractor parked in the shed, she said.
“This was done the next morning, and I don’t know how they got the pic,” she said. “The state patrol is the white unmarked car in the driveway, and no one was allowed to go in there because it was a suspected crime scene.”
Blair added that even she and the family weren’t allowed to go into the shed until today.
“It’s been a week and a day,” she said, adding that the entire family is “pretty much just devastated.”
“Her kids aren’t doing well at all,” she said. “I think they need some kind of counseling for this. I am hoping if I can get them some kind of counseling, or if someone can volunteer to counsel them, this would really help them with closure.”
She added that, out of everyone, she thinks she’s handling it the best.
“I’m a realist,” Blair said. “I’m very optimistic about things. I feel like people pass for a reason, and they go to a better place—their life doesn’t seem so miserable anymore, you know?”
Her father, on the other hand, isn’t handling it so well.
“He’s gone into ‘protect my daughter’ mode,” she said. “He keeps saying it should’ve been him, that kind of thing. There’s a lot of depression going on with him and with the kids.”
She said she’s handled all of the arrangements up to this point, including an upcoming benefit and coordinating the band, Jambone, that is scheduled to play at the event.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” she said. “Leah had no life insurance, no burial fund, nothing.”
In addition to her father and sister, Tarkington leaves behind a daughter, 21, and a son, 18.
Her son lived with her at the time of her death.
Blair has set up a page on GoFundMe.com to ask for help with Leah’s funeral expenses and to help with the family’s additional expenses as they heal from this tragedy.
“Unfortunately, Leah had no life insurance or burial benefits,” reads the page in part. “We, as a family, are trying to raise money in order to pay for and give my sister a nice memorial service, pay the medical examiner expenses, pay to have our mother's vault exhumed and pay to have a grave site service so she can rest at peace with our mother. I'd like to, in advance, personally thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for myself and our entire family!”
The benefit in Tarkington’s honor is being held at Jim & Deb’s Lakeside Pub in Lake Saint Louis, MO at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The public is invited to attend.
More about Leah Tarkington, Autopsy, Facebook, St Peters, Missouri
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