ENCINITAS — Caution tape still drapes across the front gate of a house on the 200 block of East Jason Street after an elderly man who lived alone was found dead inside during a fire last month, leaving unanswered questions from both neighbors and authorities.
Who was the man that lived in the house bordered by thick brush? Does he have any next of kin? Who will take care of the empty house?
On Feb. 13, a report was made to the Encinitas Fire Department at 7:36 a.m. that smoke was seen at the block of East Jason, which is an established residential Leucadia area with an assortment of house styles just blocks from the beach.
When the fire department arrived, they found light smoke coming out of a pet door, but no flames, according to the department.
Once inside the house, they discovered a fire that had contained itself and had not broken through the roof.
They doused the fire and found the remains of a burned body, according to Sgt. E. J. Dayrit of the sheriff’s bomb and arson unit.
He said investigators did not suspect foul play and that the county’s medical examiner’s office would investigate the cause of death.
But it’s been weeks since the fire and man’s death, and next door neighbor George Geiger said he and his wife have contacted several city agencies about the vacant house.
He hasn’t found out any information, he said.
“My main concern is keeping it clean,” he said.
At least one window is boarded, and while most of the house is hidden from the street’s view, Geiger said that his neighbor never really kept up the yard.
“We did a little work on Saturday. We just weed-whacked it and made it look like somebody’s been around,” he said.
The city recommends that code enforcement be contacted, and a complaint form be filled out to notify them of any concerns.
“The neighbors have to submit a complaint form to the city,” said Marianne Buscemi, a code enforcement officer for Encinitas.
Geiger said he would complete the form.
The yellow tape remains while investigators try to locate the deceased man’s next of kin, Encinitas Fire Department Division Chief Scott Henry said.
“We’re having difficulty locating next of kin,” he said.
“We secured the building the best we could,” he said, and added that the tape is there as an extra caution to deter curious people from going onto the property.
When Buscemi was asked what would happen to the vacant house if a next of kin was not located, she said that this type of situation has never come up before.
“But we would definitely look into it,” she said.
Though investigators with the coroner’s office still have not identified the man, the autopsy report shows he died of natural causes.
An investigator at the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office said that they “have been unable to confirm his identity through official means.”
Neighbors said the man lived in the house for decades, and that his name is Keith Manigold, and he was in his late 80s.
Geiger said he believes Manigold to be the first person to live on the street.
He said his wife has lived next door to Manigold for 22 years, and that his wife passed away last year.
“He was a crazy guy but an animal lover,” he said.
They didn’t know of any other family he might have.
“I know he was in the military — the Navy,” he said.
Thomas Evans, 26, is the neighbor on the other side of the now-vacant house, and said he has lived there for two years.
He said Manigold loved the crows and fed them cat food every day at 11 a.m.
“I’ve never seen a man with such a connection,” he said.
He said Manigold has nice property with a large backyard that can fit another house.
Evans said he thinks that Manigold has a sister.
“I think that’s crazy they haven’t identified him yet.
“I have a few letters he has written and signed his name on, from about a year ago,” he said.
Henry said that the fire department has contacted code enforcement about the house.