Man charged in fire deaths of five children in Chicago

Monday, March 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Five children ages 5 and under who had apparently been left alone were killed in an apartment fire, police said.

Antoine Lee, the father of some of the children and stepfather of the others, was charged on Monday with five counts of child endangerment, police spokesman Kevin Haley said.

The fire began shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday in the two-story brick apartment building. The children's mother was at work.

Fire Commissioner James Joyce said it appeared that the children were awake while the fire smoldered in two mattresses in the living room of the second-floor apartment.

Firefighters found the youngsters in the living room and bedroom. Joyce said their exit was blocked, possibly by a refrigerator or cabinet, but they could have gotten out if an adult had been there.

``This is not much of a fire; the loss of life is just unnecessary and tragic,'' he said. ``It's a really sad scene and it's clearly a case of negligence.''

Joyce did not know how long the father had been gone, but neighbors who reported the fire said they smelled smoke for 10 to 15 minutes.

There were no smoke detectors in the apartment, Fire Department Commander Tim Stokes said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

The Cook County medical examiner's office identified the children as Patrick Lee, 1; LeShon Anderson, 2; Domeinique Wyma, 4; Tonia Anderson, also 4; and Demetri Wyma, 5.