Friends and neighbors are in shock after hearing an elderly woman’s death is being investigated as a homicide.
Oklahoma City firefighters responded on Friday to her home near SE 44th and Sunnylane Road.
Oklahoma City police are investigating after they discovered Sara Cleveland, 78, died before the fire was set.
Investigators think someone started the fire to make Cleveland’s death look like an accident.
Related: Police Investigate SE OKC House Fire Death As Homicide
Next door neighbors rushed to Cleveland’s rescue as smoke and flames took over her home. They said she used a walker and knew she could not get out of her home on her own.
“My husband was on his knees to get under the smoke,” said Lori Beal, next door neighbor. “I kind of went down a bit and made it four steps in before my eyes were just watering from all the smoke and I couldn’t breath.”
Beal was devastated they could not save their beloved neighbor, but neither could firefighters. They discovered something more sinister once they found the elderly woman's body.
“They notified police at that point,” said Oklahoma City police Master Sgt. Gary Knight. “Our homicide unit came out and it was later determined that she was a victim of homicide.”
Police said the injuries on Cleveland's body were consistent with homicide. The news was a shock to one of her closest friends.
“We had a wonderful nine years,” said Bob Ard, victim’s friend. “And it’s sad that it comes to this but God has a reason for everything.”
Ard said Cleveland was a devout Christian woman, mother and grandmother. He finds it hard to comprehend why someone would take her life.
“I’ll miss her, I’ll miss her greatly,” said Ard. “But she’s in a better place and I’ll always remember how good she was.”
He had this to say to whoever was behind his friend's tragic death.
“Look into your heart,” said Ard. “You know what you did and come forward.”
Police have not made an arrest. They are asking the public to come forward with any information that could help them track down a suspect.
The public can call the homicide tip line at 405-297-1200 to report tips.