Death of woman in NJ house fire ruled homicide

August 19, 2010 8:09:32 AM PDT
Police are investigating the death of a 74-year-old woman who they say was killed before her house was set on fire.

Investigators worked into the night looking for answers.

Everything about the murder of Joan Davis has rocked the suburban community.

"Now that I hear it's a homicide, I'm shocked," resident Joel Marks said. "In Teaneck? It doesn't happen here."

It happened sometime Tuesday night. Firefighters responded to flames at 976 Alpine Drive and found Davis' body inside.

But it turned out the fire was part of the cover up.

Investigators believe someone killed Davis and then set the fire to hide the crime.

Davis had developed a reputation in Teaneck. At council meetings, she was feisty and one of the most vocal members of the community. She told neighbors she was a retired professor from Fairleigh Dickinson University, but the University issued the following statement:
According to university records, the person in question, Joan Davis, was never an employee of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

"Everyone knew when it was time to speak, Joan was first," neighbor Iris said. "She would challenge them on what the right thing to do was."

Neighbors say she always pushed for saving town money, did her research and kept council members on their toes.

Davis spent her life asking tough questions. Now, detectives and friends are doing the same.

"It's a shock, and it's also a mystery," Iris said. "What happened?"

Why her? Who killed her? That's what police and Davis' neighbors want to know now.

Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call police.