DENVER -- Denver police don't have any suspects as they investigate the slayings of five people whose bodies were found at a neighborhood bar after a fire broke out early Wednesday. Investigators believe they were killed before the fire and the blaze was set to cover up the slayings.
The fire at Fero's Bar & Grill was spotted just before 2 a.m., closing time for bars, by a police officer on patrol. Firefighters found four women and one man dead inside.
Police chief Robert White said there's nothing to indicate a murder-suicide, meaning whoever is responsible is still at large. He said he was hopeful the killings were an "isolated act" but couldn't say for sure yet.
"It's very alarming and that's why it's so important that we investigate it to the fullest," White said, as investigators continued their work inside the bar about 12 hours after the fire was reported.
The bar was extensively damaged, but there wasn't much damage visible from the outside, he said.
Red stains that appeared to be blood were visible on the sidewalk in front of the bar. Some of the stains were in trails on the sidewalk and others appeared to have been where blood had pooled.
The officer who reported the fire said he heard screams, but investigators said they likely came from bystanders outside.
"Based on the severity of the injuries, we don't think they came from inside," fire department spokesman Lt. Phil Champagne said.
The bar is located in a strip mall about five miles south of downtown Denver just beyond the upscale Cherry Creek North shopping district. The bar attracted both regulars and people staying in nearby hotels, but neighbors said it didn't seem busy most days. It's wedged in among a check-cashing store, a tennis shop, a nail salon and a car repair shop in the strip mall on one of the city's busiest streets, Colorado Boulevard.
Frequent patron Chris Brady said the customers ranged from "semi-homeless-looking people" to patrons in suits and ties.
He was at the bar for a regular poker game held Tuesdays and won $25 cash before leaving about 11 p.m.
"There was nobody random or crazy in there," Brady said.
Brady said bar co-owner Young Fero, known for cooking up beef bowls at a moment's notice, usually would close the bar herself, and she bid him goodnight Tuesday as he paid his tab.
"She said, "Thank you, sweetie, have a good night,"" Brady said. "I said, 'You too.""
No one answered the door at Fero's home in Aurora. A sign on the door read, "Day sleeper, please don't ring the doorbell! Thank you." It was signed "The sleeper."
Neighbor Mike Spinale described Fero as "really nice."