Police: Deadly fire at ex-tennis player Blake's Florida home intentional
MAY 07, 2014 10:52a ET
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Police in Florida say the fire at the home of a former tennis star was intentionally set and a family of four was killed.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski said Wednesday that two adults and two teenagers were killed in the mansion belonging to tennis player James Blake. He was not home at the time and was renting the house to the family.
Lusczynski said the scene was "unusual." She says officials don't know how the fire was set.
She added that there were "various fireworks" throughout the home and that two of the bodies appeared to have "upper body trauma," but she didn't give any more details.
Authorities say the bodies in the home have not been positively identified.
The home was in an upscale subdivision north of Tampa. Many sports stars and executives live in the neighborhood.
Hours after the fire was reported about 6 a.m. EDT, firefighters were still there putting out hot spots at the more than 6,000-square foot home located north of downtown Tampa.
Neighbors told detectives that Blake hasn't lived in the house for a while and was renting it out, she said. Detectives haven't talked with Blake, whose agent said he was certain Blake was not in Florida, but he wouldn't say where he was.
''He's not in Florida, I can tell you 100 percent that he's not in Florida,'' Carlos Fleming told The Associated Press.
Blake bought the home in the Avila subdivision in 2005 for $1.5 million, according to Hillsborough County property records. It had five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Video of the fire showed it totally engulfed in flames.
''It's in the back part of Avila, the million-dollar homes. It's a massive home,'' said Nacole Revette, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough Fire Rescue.
Avila is an exclusive enclave north of Tampa known for its mansions and heavy security. Many well-known athletes call the community home and over the years, various football, baseball and tennis players have bought homes in the subdivision, which has a country club and golf course.
Blake, 34, was ranked fourth on the ATP world tour in 2006. He also has the James Blake Foundation, an organization dedicated to cancer research, in memory of his father who died of gastric cancer.