By Nathan Mayberg
ROCK HILL July 1, 2005 Investigators are confident that three people who died in a home at the affluent Emerald Green development in Rock Hill suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning, due to combustion inside their central air conditioning unit.
Dr. Laurence Spiro, 62, his wife Heather Spiro, 55 and their houseguest Judith Lax, 54, who was visiting from Ontario, Canada, were all found dead Monday.
Sullivan County Sheriff Dan Hogue said the deaths occurred between Friday and Saturday.
An autopsy conducted at Catskill Regional Medical Center on Tuesday evening confirmed that they died from carbon monoxide poisoning, said Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen.
While Heather Spiro and Lax died in their separate beds, Dr. Spiro was found on the floor between his bedroom and the bathroom.
Hogue said that carbon monoxide is odorless, silent and tasteless.
You could have it in your house and not know it.
The family did not have a carbon monoxide detector, and the sheriff urged families to install one or more in their homes. Most houses built after 1995 have one, he said.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can also result from a faulty oil burner or leaving a car running in the garage.
The Spiros lived on 23 Scarborough Drive, and their home overlooked Lake Louise Marie.
Lungen said their home had very high levels of carbon monoxide when it was entered by police on Monday.
Investigators from the Sullivan County Sheriffs Department, New York State Police, Lungens office, and private investigators for the family all took part in examining the home.
Lungen said the poison was traced fairly definitively to the central air/heating system. He said on Wednesday that investigators were planning to take apart the system to examine the exact cause and location of the malfunction.
The heating/coolant system was gas-powered. The carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion.
According to Lungen, the gas normally would be released outside, but in this case, the carbon monoxide stayed inside, causing the three to suffocate.
Lungen said his office, as well as the familys investigators, are looking into the matter to determine whether there was criminal negligence on the part of the manufacturer. He said the family could also follow through with a civil proceeding against the company.
Next-door neighbors of the Spiros were shocked. Ruth Wild called the tragedy a loss to the neighborhood.
Wild and her companion, Jerry Afromsky, knew the family for a number of years. Wild said that Harriet was so happy recently because her daughter Victoria (the only child) was just married last month in New Jersey.
When Wild would go on vacation, Harriet would take care of her plants and enjoyed working out, going shopping, and heading to the beauty parlor.
She was a lovely person, said Wild. They were a nice couple and very friendly to me.
The Spiros originally lived in Liberty. Dr. Spiro was a urologist in partnership with Dr. Josef Richter for the last 28 years. They attended medical school together in Belgium at the Catholic University of Louvain, outside Brussels.
Spiro started his practice in 1975 in Liberty, and Richter joined him in 1977. The two had an office in Middletown and at one time had an office in Monticello.
Richter called Spiro a friendly, gregarious, outgoing guy a personable fellow. He enjoyed the city.
He will be sorely missed by me, his staff and all the patients he served for all those years.