Medical examiner: Mayfield Heights nurse murdered before arson that killed daughter

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio --  The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled that a Mayfield Heights nurse was murdered before her house was set on fire in Mayfield Heights, killing her young daughter.

The medical examiner’s office said Rebecca Pletnewski, 41, died of homicide due to “cervical compression with sharp force injuries," which means she passed away due to a spinal cord injury from being stabbed.

Mayfield Heights fire investigators said Pletnewski was found dead when firefighters arrived to her Longwood Road home around 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Firefighters pulled her 8-year-old daughter, Olivia Schneider, from an upstairs bedroom, and she was pronounced dead at Hillcrest Hospital. The medical examiner’s office determined she died of smoke inhalation.

The Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office said the fire was intentionally set, and a $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Mayfield Heights Police Chief Fred Bittner said Wednesday that no one is in custody in connection with the case, adding that the Mayfield Heights Police Department is “aggressively investigating” the fire.

Mayfield Heights Fire Chief Bruce Elliott said a K-9 detected accelerants near the front door of the home, and samples were being sent to Columbus for testing.

Pletnewski was an ICU nurse at University Hospitals and leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter who was not in the home at the time of the fire. Olivia was in the third grade at Mayfield’s Lander Elementary School, where counselors were available Tuesday and Wednesday.

Plenewski’s family set up a memorial fund that raised more than $30,000 by Wednesday afternoon.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the State Fire Marshal’s tip line at 800-589-2728.

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