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12-Year-Old Charged with Murder, Arson

January 1, 1993

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A 12-year-old boy has been charged with murder and arson in a fire that killed his half-sister and threatened the lives of two people who were saved by a passing delivery man.

The fire in the northeast Philadelphia rowhouse started in laundry in the basement as the youngster played with matches, said Homicide Lt. Joseph Witte.

The boy did not warn anyone in the house about the fire before running away, police said. The boy’s identity was not released.

″It’s a real tragedy,″ Witte said. ″He killed his half-sister and put his mother in the hospital. ... He just wanted to see some flame.″

Police officials said the boy, charged as an adult Thursday, was the youngest person charged with murder during 1992. He also was charged with risking a catastrophe and six counts of recklessly endangering another person.

He faces a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

There are no age limitations in bringing murder charges against a juvenile in Pennsylvania, according to Bill Davol, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.

Killed Wednesday was 22-year-old Cindy Long, whose cries for help were heard by Jonathan Buie, a Federal Express driver who was passing by.

Buie, 28, ran to the house and crawled into the smoke-filled living room, but couldn’t find Long.

He ran outside and climbed onto a porch roof, reached the second-floor window, smashed it and found two other residents, Delma Schmeltzer, 42, and Clement Zawojski, 27, huddled inside.

Firefighters arrived just as Buie was helping the couple over to a neighbor’s house.

Two other children escaped unharmed.

After rescuing the couple, Buie climbed back into his truck, his uniform wet and smoky, to finish his deliveries.

″They were late. I usually don’t have lates. I explained to the people what happened, said I was involved in a fire, helping people. They didn’t mind at all,″ Buie said.

″If that’s what it takes to be a hero, I’ll be one every day of the way,″ Buie said. ″Regardless of who might need the help, I’ll help them.″

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