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This story was updated at 10:45 p.m. with additional information.

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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents on Thursday were still collecting evidence related to the suspicious pawn shop fire in Whitwell, Tenn., where firefighters discovered the owner's body Tuesday.

The TBI identified the victim as 72-year-old local resident Jerry Don Ridge. He was found dead in the back of the Valley Pawn Broker shop on state Highway 28, known as Hudson Street inside the city limits of the small Marion County town of about 1,800.

Ridge was also an independent contract worker for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

TBI spokeswoman Susan Niland said Thursday that some information can't be discussed at this point in the investigation.

"Some of the other information is not yet available, as it will be determined once the final autopsy results are released, and that tends to take several weeks, depending on the case," Niland said.

On Tuesday afternoon, authorities almost immediately described circumstances surrounding the fire as "suspicious" and called in criminal investigators from the TBI's Mobile Crime Unit to probe the scene. Investigators worked throughout the night Tuesday and Wednesday looking for clues.

The fire was reported by a passerby around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and firefighters found the doors locked and smoke filling the building when they first arrived, according to Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett. They had to break into the building to extinguish the fire. Ridge's body was found in the back of the building, Burnett said.

The pawn shop is about a half mile south of Whitwell City Hall. At the time of the fire, city officials, possibly including some firefighters, were holding a meeting nearby and were able to respond quickly to the fire, he said.

The building that houses the pawn shop suffered damage caused mostly by smoke, the sheriff said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at 423-757-6569 pt bbenton@timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @BenBenton or Facebook at ben.benton1.

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