OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Investigators planned to return Thursday to the Wesley Avenue home where a 62-year-old grandmother was found dead after a fire Tuesday afternoon.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office, also plans to do more work, to determine what killed Patricia Noel.

Her son Reggie Poulin, who lived with her along with his 23-year-old son, Derek, said Wednesday that police seized his cellphone and his son’s car but investigators would share no details about the case.

He said his mother had a tough life and worked for everything she had. The family was close, he said, and his mother made that possible.

“If it wasn’t for her I’d be homeless,” said Poulin, who said he struggled with alcoholism for many years but has been sober for the past four. “She was the best person.”

Poulin said he works for a lawn care company. His son is unemployed and spends much of his time in his upstairs room at the house, according to an aunt.

Poulin said he was returning from work Tuesday when he saw the fire scene at his house and learned that his mother was inside.

Paul Dow, a neighbor, said Poulin and his son were grief-stricken.

“It’s just a very tragic event,” Dow said. “She was quiet and pretty reclusive, but I talked to her on a couple of occasions. She was a good neighbor.”

The fire broke out at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the first-floor bedroom where Noel slept. Firefighters put the blaze out quickly, then found Noel’s body.

Noel would have been getting ready to go to her second-shift job as a medical records processor at Maine Medical Center in Portland, family members said.

State police, who investigate most of the state’s homicides, were called in to assist the state Fire Marshal’s Office, which focused on the cause of the fire.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, which includes both agencies, would not say what made investigators suspicious.

“There are questions that have come up in this investigation,” he said.

Noel’s daughter, Darcy Poulin-Daniels, said she didn’t know what police were investigating Wednesday and didn’t learn about her mother’s death until she saw it reported on television.

“The police questioned me, my brother and my nephew all separately,” she said. “This is just all a nightmare.”

Poulin-Daniels said her mother raised the family in Portland and moved to Old Orchard Beach more than 10 years ago.

She spoke with her mother almost every day, she said, and Noel visited her a couple of times a week. They last saw each other Sunday. Her mother’s birthday would have been next week, she said.

Her mother went to a doctor on Monday but Poulin-Daniels said she didn’t know why. Now, she is saddened and confused by her mother’s death and the lack of information.

“I don’t know if she had a heart attack or something or if something bad happened to her,” Poulin-Daniels said.

Noel’s body was taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy Wednesday. About the time the autopsy was scheduled to be completed, there was a flurry of activity at the house.

The state police crime scene vehicle and the command vehicle for the Fire Marshal’s Office were pulled up close to the house. Evidence recovery specialists and other investigators, some wearing clothing used to avoid contaminating a crime scene, spent the next 2½ hours in the house before leaving as darkness fell.

Neighbors said police had been called to the house multiple times in the past for loud disturbances but the house had been very quiet for a year.

Noel’s death and the police investigation startled some in the neighborhood, who knew her as a cheerful woman who always waved hello.

“She was very, very nice,” said Caleigh Mills, who called 911 Tuesday to report the fire.

Mills said she did errands for her mother Tuesday and when she returned home she noticed nothing unusual at Noel’s house across the street. She thought Noel wasn’t at home because a friend of hers had seen her somewhere else.

When she left again 20 minutes later, she heard the smoke alarm going off in Noel’s house but thought nothing of it.

When she returned, she smelled smoke and walked around the house to investigate. That’s when she saw the blinds melting from the heat and ran to get her cellphone to call 911, she said.

Reggie Poulin said there was no reason for Mills to think something terrible was happening when she heard the smoke alarm. He remembered needing to replace the batteries in the smoke detector but never got to it. He assumes his son replaced them.

Poulin could offer no insight into why police took his cellphone or his son’s car. He said his son was in Portland on Tuesday and was staying with a family member Wednesday.

Poulin said he didn’t know where he would stay. Police would not let him return to his house to get clothes or other belongings.

Poulin said they planned to fix up the house this winter and his mother had already bought roofing materials. He planned to work on the floors and the kitchen during the months when he couldn’t do lawn care, he said.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

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