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Investigators ID 'Hoarder' Who Died in North Linden House Fire

COLUMBUS (Ken Hines) -- Investigators have identified an elderly man who died in a fire when rescuers were unable to reach him due to clutter inside his burning North Linden neighborhood home.

Firefighters described the deceased victim, James Shields Jr., as a hoarder whose belongings prevented them from rescuing him when his E. 20th Avenue home burned on Sunday evening.

We had tried to get my dad to move out of this place because, as you can see, he liked to hold on to stuff," Shield's son, Dearylle, said. "We tried to get him to come and move with me, live with me or with other relatives, and he said he wanted to be at his own house.

Investigators are examining the remains of the home in order to determine the cause of the fire, but have already determined that Shields would have been unable to escape the blaze because of the state of his home, according to Dearylle.

Neighbor Tina Hester reported the fire to a 911 dispatcher, and said she sent her grandson, DeMonte, to the home to attempt to contact Shields.

DeMonte Hester claimed to have heard Shields yell for help from a window -- but the condition of the home likely made that impossible, according to Dearylle.

The policeman told me that he was found in the chair that he loved to sit in his whole life, so he couldn't have come to the door or windows hollering 'Help me, help me,' because of the condition of the house, the amount of stuff in the house. It was a death trap."

Shields lived in the North Linden neighborhood for 60 years, and had spent the last four months alone in the home after the death of his wife. He was known around the neighborhood for fixing televisions and radios.

"[He] watched me grow up as a little boy," said Matt Andrews, who described himself as Shields's friend. "He's very old. His wife passed about four years ago. I just helped him out two weeks ago with his battery."
 
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