Family grieves, suspects foul play after fire kills blind Richmond woman: ‘I want justice’

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — An early morning house fire in Richmond Friday left a blind woman dead.

The Richmond Police Department identified the woman as 46-year-old Shene Dickens.

Investigators say Dickens called fire crews to her home near Plazaview Road and Brandon Road around 1:45 a.m. At the scene, crews spotted flames and smoke coming from the back of the home.

In an emotional interview several hours after the fire, Dickens’ sister revealed to 8News the family just lost their mother to cancer two years ago. She said another loss in the family is just unfathomable.

“We’re the only two left in Richmond so we’re just like ‘we’re all we got,'” she said through tears. “We used to say that all the time.”

J. Dickens said the two sisters were both born visually impaired with a disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. “We can’t see at night. Everything we see is black,” she said.

Authorities told 8News the fire trapped the victim inside.

“So for me to think about her waking up, [she] already can’t see, smoke-filled house, she’s just trying to feel her way out and can’t make it, that’s just devastating to me,” J. Dickens told 8News.

Firefighters said they arrived within five minutes of Shene Dickens’ call for help. When they arrived, they attempted “life saving measures”, including CPR, but said burns on her body and smoke inhalation eventually killed her while at a nearby hospital.

Neighbors told 8News they were woken up by the loud fire noise outside the home.

Two neighbors said they heard her say she couldn’t breathe. “That was the last thing you heard,” Deborah Morgan said.

“It’s just a tragedy, a total tragedy,” a next-door neighbor, Tara Mattox, said. “It’s unbelievable. She was a grandmother. Nobody deserves that.”

Jolanda Dickens said she doesn’t believe the fire was an accident. “I want justice for my sister, for my best friend.”

She said Shene’s ex-boyfriend was continuously harassing her as recently as Thursday.

“He used to always come in from the back porch of her house and that’s what was burned: the back porch of her house,” the sister said.

Richmond fire officials said they aren’t yet sure how the fire started but said they don’t suspect foul play.

“It’s still under investigation,” said Richmond Fire Lt. Chris Armstrong at the scene.

The Richmond Fire Department is leading the fire investigation and RPD’s Major Crimes Division will be handling the death investigation.

Shene’s sister said she is begging authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.

“There’s no way she can just expire like this and nobody does anything. I gotta get answers for my sister.”

Neighbors said it was a boarding or “rooming” house and a handful of people lived inside. Lt. Armstrong said another resident was inside during the fire and suffered smoke inhalation as well but is doing okay today.

GoFundMe page has been established by Jolinda to help cover costs for a burial service.

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