CAHOKIA — The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis was activated Thursday afternoon to investigate the murder of an 89-year-old World War II veteran who was found dead early Wednesday morning in a house fire.

Officials aren't saying how they determined that the death of Howard Sutton, who lived alone at the home in the 1100 block of St. Marcella Drive, was a homicide.

"We're looking at the cause of death as a homicide and sometimes it takes a little while to get that point in an investigation," said Belleville Detective Karl Kraft, who is part of the Major Case Squad response.

More than a dozen detectives from area departments that make up the Major Case Squad were still mobilizing at Cahokia police headquarters Thursday afternoon.

St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr. said he could not comment Thursday on his findings from the autopsy until toxicology reports come back, which could take weeks.

The fire presented a challenge for firefighters when rounds of ammunition stored inside the home exploded.

Kraft said investigators were able to determine those exploding rounds did not kill Sutton, but did not elaborate.

Relatives said Sutton kept the ammunition in drawers mainly because he didn’t like to throw anything away.

On Thursday, a relative referred questions about the homicide investigation to police.

The fire was reported at 1:23 a.m.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined.

Cahokia Fire Chief Stephen Robbins said Wednesday that the fire didn't look suspicious, but asked the state fire marshal’s office to investigate.

He said it is protocol anytime someone dies in a fire. The fire marshal is looking for the cause and origin of the blaze.

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