In an update from Genoa Township police, investigators have confirmed that a family found dead in their home May 2 died of “carbon-monoxide saturation,” and have narrowed down the possible causes of the saturation.
The family of four – including Richard Gabriel Reitter III, 50; his wife, Jennifer, 49; their 15-year-old son, Richard Gabriel Reitter IV, and 13-year-old daughter, Grace – were found dead in their home at 6931 Lewis Center Road at 1:19 p.m. May 2.
Police immediately said they suspected carbon-monoxide poisoning; according to Genoa Township, tests since the deaths have confirmed those suspicions.
Police said the last known contact with the family was on the night of April 29, when “they had all complained of illness,” and Grace was held out of school due to illness.
“The schools are believed to have followed all appropriate protocols,” according to a press release.
The four family members – including Grace, who attended Berkshire Middle School, and 15-year-old Richard, known as Gabe, who attended Berlin High School – were found in different rooms, along with the family’s three dogs.
According to a release May 13, investigators found carbon-monoxide levels as high as 1,200 parts per million in the house.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website says “disorientation, unconsciousness and death” are possible at just 200 ppm.
The Montgomery County coroner, who performed autopsies on the Reitter family, listed the cause of death as carbon-monoxide saturation in a preliminary report. After further testing, which will take “several weeks,” police said the cause of death may be changed to carbon-monoxide intoxication
During an inspection of the house, investigators found an exhaust pipe on its water heater that was “slightly dislodged.” A code inspector reported the heater was code-compliant, but said there was no permit on file for the installation, which is required by the Ohio Residential Code.
On May 3, police had the house’s Navien NPE-240A water heater and a furnace forensically inspected.
“When an operational trial was initiated, the water heater immediately began emitting high levels of carbon monoxide,” the release says. “Testing had to be stopped before it was possible to conclude if the cause of carbon monoxide was faulty installation or a faulty unit; that determination will require more extensive testing. The furnace was found to be in good working order.”
Police found no evidence of tampering with the water heater.
According to the release, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission recently issued a recall for about 3,400 Navien tankless water heaters because a “kit installed on the tankless water heaters and boilers to convert them from natural gas to propane can cause the unit to produce excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, posing a risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning to consumers.”
The model used in the home was not one of the recalled items, the release says.
Genoa Township police discovered that a similar instance occurred May 5 in Morrow County, when a resident survived carbon-monoxide exposure from a NCB-240E tankless water heater. The heater reportedly had an exhaust pipe “dislodged in what seems to be the same location and manner as the unit in the Reitter home.”
According to the release, Genoa Township police contacted the Ohio Attorney General’s consumer product safety section May 10 to report the two similar incidents to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“The findings of the Genoa Township investigation are being provided to assist in determining what, if any, investigation will be conducted,” the release says.
Police reportedly briefed family members and their lawyers May 9 regarding the investigation and “stressed” that they “cannot say whether the cause of the carbon monoxide was due to faulty installation or a product defect.”
Because their investigation was “only to determine if there was foul play or a crime committed that resulted in the deaths of these individuals,” the Genoa Township investigation will be closed when the final autopsy report is complete.
“The Genoa Township Police Department makes no allegations or assertions that the cause of the carbon monoxide was due to human or product error; that remains undetermined,” the release says.