Carbon monoxide poisoning may have caused mysterious deaths

First responders in the 3000 block of Deakin Street on Monday found two young people dead at home along with their cats. Photo: Sean Rouse

Carbon monoxide poisoning may have killed a young couple and their cats last weekend in a Berkeley apartment, sources familiar with the case have said.

But the Alameda County coroner’s office has not yet determined the official cause of death, and the Berkeley Police Department had no updates as of this weekend.

Roger Hanna Morash, 35, and Valerie Morash 32, were found dead Monday in their apartment at 3028 Deakin St. Their two Singapura cats, Minsky and Malloc, were also dead.

The bodies were found early Monday afternoon but no time of death has been released. According to one friend, they died Sunday, but this information has not been confirmed.


Both autopsies were completed by Wednesday, but the coroner’s report has not been finalized. Additional test results are forthcoming.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Carbon monoxide, or ‘CO,’ is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you.” The gas “can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.” The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

The fumes are produced “any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnace.”

According to a friend of the couple, they had a small commercially-produced laser cutter that they stored and used in their apartment. There has been some speculation that this could have been a source of fumes.

The friend said “it required ventilation and that he himself had felt sickened by the fumes on one occasion,” according to a Berkeley resident who shared this information with Berkeleyside last week.

Another friend, Allen Rabinovich, told Berkeleyside there was no indication that the laser cutter was operating at the time the couple died. There was also a small commercially-produced 3D printer in the home, but that didn’t appear to be in use either.

Media reports began to surface Friday about the presumed cause of death, but Rabinovich said they included inaccuracies.

“This is all pure speculation,” Rabinovich said. “The device named in the KPIX CBS article (‘laser 3D printer’) doesn’t even exist, and we are in contact with the police, who are still working on official investigation results. We’d like to ask the press to refrain from speculating until official results come out. Whether we know tonight or a week from now won’t change the fact that two amazing human beings have passed far too soon. Our focus right now is on preserving and magnifying their legacy.”

A private memorial service for the couple took place Friday in Berkeley.

Friends and family have asked community members who wish to do so to donate to a charity of their choice in Val and Roger’s name, or hold their donation until the announcement of a scholarship that will be endowed in their honor. Additional updates from friends and family will be available on the memorial page.

[Editor’s note: Due to the preliminary nature of the investigation, and pending any official confirmation about the cause of death, a reference to the laser cutter has been removed from the headline and first sentence of this story.]