$5,000 reward offered for tips on Jan. 17 fire that killed 2, injured 5 in Pontiac

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Pontiac — A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for a Jan. 17 house fire that killed two and injured five, officials said Tuesday.

“We would greatly appreciate the public’s help in identifying this person or providing any other information that could further our investigation into these tragic deaths,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a statement.

In this photo provided by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, a house burns in Pontiac on Jan. 17, 2022.

Firefighters and sheriff's deputies were called at about 2:45 a.m. Jan. 17 to a multifamily home in the 800 block of St. Clair Street near West Kennett and Baldwin in the city of Pontiac for a report of a fire, according to authorities.

First-responders found the building engulfed in flames when they arrived.

After the fire was extinguished, officials found a man's body in the kitchen on the first floor and another man's body in a second-floor bedroom, authorities said. Investigators identified the victims as Jeff Donnelly, 59, and Brandon Andrews, 19, both of Pontiac. 

Andrews was autistic. Officials said his stepfather, 36, told them he instructed Andrews to jump from their second-story window, but he refused. The stepfather jumped to safety, but Andrews stayed behind and hadn't been found hours after the blaze.

Two of the home's other occupants, men ages 67 and 68, were taken to a hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. Another occupant of the home, a 58-year-old Pontiac man, broke his leg during his escape. 

On Tuesday, investigators said video from a nearby commercial building's security system shows a figure walking between the home's kitchen, dining room and living room on the ground floor several times just before the fire.

They said within 20 seconds of the final trip, fire can be seen through the window and it quickly spread through the home.

Officials said there were 10 people in the home at the time of the fire and a second-floor exit door at the front of the home had been locked with a deadbolt, preventing anyone’s escape. The smoke and heat prompted numerous of the home's residents to jump from second-floor windows, they said.

Anyone with information about the fire should call the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office at (248) 858-5001 or the Detroit Crime Commission at (800) 442-7766.