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Suspect Arraigned In Warehouse Fire

March 18, 1987

DETROIT (AP) _ A 36-year-old man has been jailed without bond on murder charges stemming from a fire at an abandoned warehouse that killed three firefighters, police said.

Willie James Clemons was arraigned Tuesday before Magistrate Charles Hammond, said police spokeswoman Allene Ray. He was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of burning real property.

A preliminary examination is scheduled March 23.

If convicted, Clemons could receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Clemons, who was arrested Saturday, allegedly told police he was drunk and ″didn’t know what I was doing″ when he set the fires.

″I went into the building with some matches and I set it on fire,″ he said, according to a transcript of an interview with investigators.

Lt. Paul Schimeck, 46, Lt. David Lau, 58, and Larry McDonald, 20, were killed in the fire, which began Thursday in what used to be the Motor City Wiping Cloth Co. warehouse and spread to the neighboring Continental Paper & Supply Co.

Schimeck fell to his death following an explosion in the warehouse, and Lau and McDonald died after a roof collapsed on them in the paper products company.

About 5,000 firefighters from throughout the United States and Canada and other mourners attended a memorial service for the firefighters Monday.

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