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Homicide suspected in death of actress

TAYLORSVILLE -- A fire that ripped through a Taylorsville home Monday was deliberately set and the death of a woman, whose body was found in a downstairs bedroom, is being investigated as a homicide, investigators say.

The body of Danielle Omer, a well-known local actress, was found in a downstairs bedroom of her home, 4912 S. Bitter Root Drive (3300 West), after the fire was extinguished. But evidence at the scene -- the details of which are not yet being released by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office -- indicate the woman may not have died in the fire.An autopsy was being conducted Tuesday to determine the cause of death and to positively identify Omer, homicide Sgt. Jerry Townsend said.

Firefighters were immediately suspicious of the 9:30 a.m. fire, Salt Lake Fire Capt. Bill Brass said.

Two separate fires were actually burning in the home. One had engulfed the second floor and another fire was burning on the lower level. Investigators have determined the fires were started separately and probably with some kind of accelerant like gasoline.

"As we would hit it with the water stream, the flames would jump right back up, which is an indication of an accelerant," Brass said.

The fire caused extensive damage to the upper level of the home but less to the lower level, Brass said.

Detectives have no clear suspects in the case but are working on several leads.

"Pretty much everyone is a suspect at this point," sheriff's deputy Peggy Faulkner said.

Omer's death is a loss not only to her friends and family but to the Salt Lake theater community, said her friend, co-worker and fellow thespian Beth Bruner.

"Her voice was a dream. She was an incredible singer," said Bruner, who directed Omer in several productions, including one Bruner wrote.

"People would call in to the (Desert Star Playhouse) box office and ask if (Omer) was in a show before they would buy their tickets," Bruner said. "She will be missed."

Offstage, Bruner will miss her friend, whom she described as funny, caring, devoted to her family of four daughters and three grandchildren and as one who would be there in a pinch when needed.

"She was the kind of woman who, when I was going out of town, would take care of my children for me," said Bruner. "And she was devoted to her church, active in the young women's group. There were several times I offered her theater tickets that she turned down because she had a young women's activity."

Bruner was shocked by the news that Omer's death is being considered a homicide and said she didn't know of anyone Omer had problems with.

The two last saw each other a week ago over lunch.

"She was very positive about everything," Bruner said. "There was nothing unusual or out of the ordinary."

Omer had acted in several productions at Desert Star. Her most recent role was a parody of a fading film star in "Miracle on 42nd Street" last winter.

Other roles included Emma in "White Christmas," Dixie Cate, the brusque proprietor of Dixie's Diner in "Elvis in Viva Salt Lake: Eat My Rust," the overbearing Mme. Thenardier in "Les Miserables, or A Whole Lot Less Miserable," last fall; the maid, Miss Wills, in "Dracula, the Vampire, or He Loved in Vein"; feisty Granny Pitt in "Hillbillies: 90120" (1997); Prissy, an irritating whiner, in "Space Wars: A 2002 Space Oddity of Olympic Proportions," a galactic spin on "Gone With the Wind" (1997) and Rose in "Calamity Jane or All's Riot on the Western Front."

Deseret News staff writer Ivan Lincoln contributed to this story.