Families still waiting for answers from 2020 Utica Street house fire that killed young couple and one-year-old

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Families are still waiting for answers more than a year after a young couple and one-year-old child died in a fire on East Utica Street.

Buffalo fire commissioner William Renaldo said they have at least one person of interest in this case. He said it’s taking longer than they would have hoped but he wants to make sure the investigation is done right.

The fire broke out on September 25, 2020. Anthony Gouchie and Emma Johnson were sleeping in a third-floor attic space with their own-year-old daughter Amira at the time and died in the fire.

Anthony’s mother Ruth is one of many that wants answers.

“I keep praying someday, somebody will come forward and justice will be served. We lost three amazing people that should be here today,” she said.

Commissioner Renaldo said in the initial report there was no evidence of smoke detectors in the house. However, he said sometimes they can be burned in the fire or destroyed in the emergency demolition that happened the day after the fire.

He said the investigation is still ongoing and the absence of detectors is being looked into.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn is working with the fire marshal’s office on the case. He said the landlord of the building is a Buffalo Police lieutenant, but at this point he’s not a suspect. Flynn also said he wouldn’t be the one investigating the smoke detector issue.

“The building department in the City of Buffalo needs to handle that,” he said. “My only investigation here is who caused the fire and whether or not it was criminal in nature and whether or not I can prove it.”

He said there was a car in the driveway, close to the front porch and investigators are still trying to figure out whether the fire started in the car or on the porch.

“But in order to even get to the point of who caused the fire, who did it, I have to find out where it started and what caused it in the first place,” Flynn said. “With those pieces of the puzzle now I can start putting together the other pieces that I have as far as what the witnesses have said.”

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