Long before firefighters responded to a call for a fire in the 1200 block of East Belvedere Avenue in the wee hours of the morning Tuesday, Monique Lofton had begun searching that same neighborhood for any sign of her brother, 38-year-old Shamar Poole.
“When I stopped at the scene, the lady told me, 'Wait there', and when she came out a couple of hours later, she told me it was my brother," said Lofton.
Poole, they thought, had died, engulfed in flames that firefighters could not extinguish in time to save his life.
But an autopsy has now revealed someone killed Poole and then set his body on fire, and his family learned of his fate when we arrived at their doorstep.
"When you came in you told me it was blunt force trauma. I kind of knew that,” said Lofton, “Something had to be done before the fire, because he's not letting anyone just put him on fire. He's too big. He's too heavy for you to just dump something on him."
Poole's death now leaves a painful void in the hearts of a large family that survives him.
"He left three kids behind, a mother, father, two sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins that love him," said Robin Poole, the victim’s aunt.
"Our whole family is devastated,” said Lofton, “The only thing I can say is when they told me it was my brother. It's not my brother. Stuff like that doesn't happen to us. For someone to burn him. Stuff like that. You can shoot him. I can bring that back home to my mother, but I can't bring back home a burnt body."
Yet hope of finding his killer eludes them.
"Do you think you'll get justice in this? Do you think they'll be able to find out what happened?"
"I don't know,” said Lofton, “It's Baltimore City."
Homicide detectives are asking anyone with information to contact them at 410-396-2100, Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7lockup or text a tip 443-902-4824.