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4 dead in arson fire at mansion owned by former tennis star

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The “unusual” fire at a Florida mansion belonging to a former tennis star was intentionally set and a family of four was discovered in the charred remains, police said Wednesday.

The victims were described as two adults and two teenage children, but they have not been positively identified, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Col. Donna Lusczynski said. She described the fire as “unusual” and said there were “various fireworks” throughout the Tampa Bay-area home.

Two of the bodies appeared to have “upper body trauma,” but she didn’t indicate which ones or give any more details. She also said no weapons had been found.

Former tennis standout James Blake had been renting the home to the family for about the past two years, Lusczynski said. He was not there at the time of the fire.

The home was in an upscale subdivision north of Tampa. Many sports stars and executives live in the neighborhood.

Hours after the fire was reported about Wednesday 6 a.m. EDT, firefighters were still at the more than 6,000-square foot home located north of downtown Tampa. Blake bought the home in the Avila subdivision in 2005 for $1.5 million, according to Hillsborough County property records. It had five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Video of the fire showed it totally engulfed in flames.

Lusczynski said the two teenagers were found in their respective bedrooms and the two adults were found in their bedroom.

Avila is an exclusive enclave known for its mansions and heavy security. Many well-known athletes call the community home and over the years, various football, baseball and tennis players have bought homes in the subdivision, which has a country club and golf course.

Blake, 34, was ranked fourth on the ATP world tour in 2006 before he retired last year. He also has the James Blake Foundation, an organization dedicated to cancer research, in memory of his father who died of gastric cancer.

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Follow Tamara Lush at https://twitter.com/tamaralush

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