A man deemed a "person of interest" in the arson investigation of the Stag Hotel fire died last month, but a second man remains under investigation in what is now a possible murder case, Watsonville police reported Friday.
Roy Robert Hughes, 50, was one of two people critically injured in the April 30 fire. He succumbed June 6 to injuries suffered in the fire, according to police.
"Hughes was a person of interest in the investigation along with another male who is still under investigation," Watsonville police Sgt. Saul Gonzalez said in a prepared statement released Friday morning. "If it is determined the final outcome of the investigation is arson, this would be considered a murder investigation."
For all of Patch's coverage of the arson at the Stag Hotel, click HERE.
The Stag Hotel, a two-story residential facility that housed more than 50 people, caught fire around 5:45 p.m. April 30. Flames tore through the 75-year-old building, and some residents leaped from second-story windows to escape the fire.
At least 17 men were injured (the Stag Hotel was primarily a men's residence, many of whom had medical issues or were low-income). Hughes and a second man were the most badly hurt, police said.
Fire investigators determined the fire ignited from a source other than electrical failure or natural causes, and currently suspect the blaze was arson.
In May, because of the way it burned.
"Investigators are still awaiting lab results from the Department of Justice to make a final determination," Gonzalez reported in Friday's statement.
The motive in the arson is unknown. Police, who are working with the Watsonville Fire Department on the investigation, did not name the second suspect. Gonzalez said the second man does not know is the focus of the investigation.
Police didn't intend to release that Hughes had died but "the media got wind of it," Gonzalez said.
He added, "We weren't hiding it."
It's unclear how long it will take to wrap up the probe. Gonzalez said it's too soon for police to offiically call the fire arson, but said "We're investigating it that way and it's leaning that way."