Accused sex offender dies in 'suspicious' house fire same day trial was to start

A 69-year-old man awaiting trial for criminal sexual conduct was killed after his house caught fire with him inside it early Monday morning, the same day his trial was expected to start.

Police say Thomas Owens was inside his home when the fire started on Stone School Road in Pittsfield Township. He escaped with severe burns and was taken to a hospital but died Tuesday morning.

Owens was scheduled to be in court on Monday where he was to be tried on four charges of criminal sexual conduct. He was charged in July with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim under 13, one count of third-degree crminal sexual conduct with a victim between 13 and 15, and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim under 13.

The charges all stem from an incident in January 2007.

The fire destroyed the home and it was demolished later on Monday. Fire officials are investigating the cause and say it was "suspicious".