A pair of teens are facing murder charges in the death of an 81-year-old woman found dead in her bedroom after firefighters doused a raging fire at her home in a small upstate New York town, police say.
Helen Mills was likely beaten and strangled before the blaze started at her home in the Village of Goshen, state police say. Her badly burned body was found in a flaming home over the weekend. She was the only person in the home.
State police say an autopsy showed Mills had blunt force trauma to the head and injuries to her throat consistent with her having been beaten and strangled prior to the fire. Authorities are awaiting a final report from the medical examiner on her cause of death.
The 19-year-old and 17-year-old suspects, who are dating, were arrested on felony murder charges in Mills' death. Investigators say it appears they killed Mills while they were burglarizing her home, fueled by drugs and the need for money.
There was evidence of fire accelerants in the burnt home, authorities said.
It wasn't immediately clear if the teens had lawyers.
The murder has been "very unnerving to the community," said Goshen Police Chief James Watt. "It's a small community, 6,000 people, very close-knit. And when something like this happens, people become very insecure."
Neighbors said Mills was well-known in the community, and was "always very happy and always smiling."
"She was very loving," said Melissa Lane. "She would walk up and down the street and always have a polite thing to say."
A makeshift memorial in front of Mills' home contained flowers and a note saying, "Please watch over the children of Goshen and save them from their addictions. Our children are dying from heroin and now they're killing for it, too."