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11-Year-Old Charged in Blaze that Killed Four

September 19, 1989

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ An 11-year-old girl has been charged with setting a fire that killed four children at a foster home and injured 12 other people.

Lakeya Hartwell, whose half-brother was among the dead in the Aug. 31 blaze, was arrested Sunday and ordered held without bail pending a preliminary hearing Sept. 27.

Lakeya, who also lived in the home, was not injured in the fire.

She appeared in the arraignment room about 2:30 a.m. Monday without an attorney or any family members present. When Bail Commissioner Patrick Cubbage asked her if she understood the charges, she nodded her head.

She was charged with four counts of murder, 11 counts of aggravated assault, 11 counts of simple assault, 11 counts of recklessly endangering another person, one count of arson and one count of risking and causing a catastrophe, police Lt. James Hansen said.

According to an unidentified police source quoted in Monday’s editions of The Philadelphia Inquirer, investigators believe Lakeya, just hours before the blaze, told another occupant not to sleep at the house because a fire was going to occur.

Lakeya also had mentioned a blaze would occur in the house before one of two previous fires, the source said.

Police would not speculate on a motive.

The fire started about 3 a.m. on Aug. 31 in the six-bedroom stone and frame house where Hubert and Rose Artis had kept foster children since 1972.

Gasoline had been poured on an enclosed porch, the living room and stairwell, investigators said.

Killed were Lakeya’s half-brother, Anwan G. Reid, 8, and three other children. All were trapped in a second-floor bedroom. Eleven residents of the house and a firefighter were injured.

The Artises, both 65, were injured. Authorities described them as ″outstanding foster parents″ but added that too many children were residing in the house.

Lakeya had been placed in the home in 1986 by the city Department of Human Services, police said.

She and her half-brother had been taken from their mother, Wanda, 29, because of neglect, said the children’s grandfather, Willie Hartwell. Shortly after the fire, he said his daughter had a drug problem and ″wouldn’t take care of the kids.″

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