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Woman, 2 Kids Die in Conn. Fire

January 20, 1998

WINDSOR, Conn. (AP) _ Neighbors heard screams, then silence, as a fire that apparently started in a cassette player filled a home with smoke, killing a grandmother and her two granddaughters.

``We heard the kids jumping around and screaming,″ said Renee Simms, a downstairs tenant of the home. ``All of a sudden there was nothing. Then I heard the girl from the third floor yelling, `Fire!‴

Simms said her boyfriend kicked open one of the doors and she crawled into the thick smoke. She said she could only get a few feet inside.

Sha-tani Clark, 8, and Shantell Clark, 6, were found on the floor next to their bunk beds. Their grandmother, Deborah Duke, 43, was found on her bedroom floor.

The apartment had smoke detectors _ but fire officials said there were no batteries in them.

The grandfather, James Duke, had left the home to go to work 10 minutes before the fire began about 6:30 a.m.

Fire officials said the blaze appeared to have started in a cassette player in the living room.

The girls’ mother, Tanisha Clark, 22, is serving a 9 1/2-year prison sentence for drug-selling.

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