.November 10, 2006
Six victims of deadly Reno hotel fire identified
RENO - Authorities have released the names of six
people killed in the Halloween night arson fire at
the Mizpah Hotel in downtown Reno.
Six of the 12 victims were identified in court papers
as Gregory Wiltse, Ernest Duarte, Paul Drum Smith,
Christopher Covery, Nadine Nicodemus and Phillip Bridges.
Authorities have said that DNA or dental records
are needed to identify the remaining victims, who
were burned beyond recognition.
Gregory Wiltse, 56, came to Reno a month ago to find
a home for himself and his wife, Joan Dosdos, who
lives in the Philippines and is seven months pregnant,
said Wiltse's brother, Don, of Minnesota.
Don Wiltse said his brother was staying at the Mizpah
temporarily until he got organized and could find
"He would have been out of there before too
much longer," he said, adding that Wiltse was
working temporarily as a desk clerk and maintenance
person at the hotel.
Gregory Wiltse was taken from a room in the hotel
by firefighters, but died at the scene.
Ellen Beebe says her friend, Nadine Nicodemus, had
a chronic heart condition and worked as a phlebotomist
at a Reno laboratory.
Her body was recovered in a room on the third floor
of the hotel's annex.
"She made such an effort to keep going on,"
Beebe said. "Nadine never complained," Beebe
"She would do anything for anybody and was angelic
like," she said.
Valerie Moore, 47, a paroled killer who lived at
the historic, three-story hotel, was charged Thursday
with 12 counts of first-degree murder and one count
Moore, who worked as a cook at a nearby downtown
casino, is accused of starting the blaze by setting
a mattress on fire after a dispute with a fellow tenant
in the 84-year-old, largely residential hotel with
a weekly rate of $150.
She is scheduled to make her initial appearance Monday
in Reno Justice Court.
Moore was paroled last year after serving 17 years
in a Nevada prison for second-degree murder for killing
an unemployed Reno waitress in 1987, state corrections
Crews begin demolition of burned Mizpah Hotel
Demolition of the north side of the Mizpah Hotel,
severely damaged from a Halloween arson that killed
12, began Thursday morning when investigators released
the building to its owner.
It was unknown how long the demolition would take,
as extreme care is needed so the weakened structure
won't cause a catastrophic collapse, Reno police and
fire spokesman Steve Frady said.
The hotel, at 214 N. Lake St., was built in three
phases beginning in 1922. The south side, built in
1925, wasn't as damaged and is expected to remain,
said Frady, who did not know what else would be salvageable.
Authorities believe they recovered the 12th and final
victim late Tuesday from the hotel after Reno's deadliest
fire. Investigators have finished documenting the
crime scene, but plans for the structure were unknown.
Authorities believe an ignited mattress leaned against
a resident's door sparked the deadly fire.
Mizpah owner Fabio Reginato could not be reached
Thursday. At the time of the fire, the building had
been for sale and was being renovated. Mattresses
had been in the hallway after employees had changed
them out from the rooms.
Frady said the building's demolition is the owner's
responsibility. Currently, city officials have classified
the hotel as a "dangerous building."
The fire also indefinitely closed several businesses
on the first floor, some of them new shops. Frady
said all businesses sustained smoke and water damage.
The shops' utilities were hooked up in a central area
in the north portion of the residential hotel, where
most of the fire damage occurred, Frady said.
It was unknown when those businesses would reopen.
On Thursday, a criminal complaint was filed against
Valerie Moore, 47, charging her with 12 counts of
first-degree murder and one count of arson. Prosecutors
in the charging document also identified six of the
12 victims -- the first time authorities have publicly
identified any of the deceased. Police said 83 known
residents were in the hotel.
Moore, a paroled murderer, had been in jail on a
no-bail parole violation since the morning after the
fire. She has declined multiple requests for an interview.
An additional $20,000 was donated from a Wednesday
fundraiser for a total of $70,000 so far to help the
victims. The Red Cross and ReStart, a local organization
that helps the mentally ill and homeless find housing,
will use the money to help displaced Mizpah residents,
ReStart board member Dali Wiederhoft said.
The donations were about $55,000 short of what's
needed to find permanent housing and necessities for
up to 100 displaced fire victims.
Wiederhoft said the Red Cross has confirmed that
71 victims have registered for assistance and that
more still need to come forward. ReStart has helped
move 48 of those victims into an affordable, permanent
home during the past four days, she said.
Anyone who would like to drop off a donation, she
said, may do so at the ReStart office at 490 Mill
St., or may call at 324-2622. She said all donations
made specifically to Mizpah victims would reach them.
Wiederhoft said a ReStart staff psychiatrist has
been counseling fire victims who remain traumatized.