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Watauga County Sheriff’s Office logo

BETHEL — The preliminary cause of a Bethel woman’s death has been determined to be smoke inhalation and possible heart attack after she was found deceased in her home on Oct. 15, according to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.

First responders were called to the Stone Mountain Road home due to a structure fire that was later determined to be caused by a cigarette, according to Watauga Fire Marshal Taylor Marsh. An unattended death of an 82-year-old woman — Juanita Eggers Ward — was then reported at the residence.

An autopsy was performed at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center on Oct. 18, according to Sheriff Len Hagaman. WCSO stated that the cause of death was preliminary, as a toxicology report was not finalized.

Marsh had previously stated that Ward was the only person home at the time of the fire. WCSO stated on Oct. 22 that it did not suspect foul play in the incident.

The home sustained moderate fire and smoke damage in the living room area as well as smoke damage throughout the rest of the home, according to Marsh. WCSO declined to comment on the sequence of events relating to the fire or death.

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