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Five Burned Beyond Recognition in Arson Fire; One Survivor

May 30, 1995

SAN MARINO, Calif. (AP) _ A pre-dawn arson fire that started with a loud ``kaboom″ killed five people as it roared through a home in this affluent suburb. The lone survivor was in critical condition.

``We have overwhelming and compelling evidence that it was arson,″ Fire Chief Frank Wills said. ``We’re calling it a multiple homicide at this point.″

Five bodies were recovered from the white, ranch-style home that erupted in flames shortly after 5 a.m. Monday. All were burned beyond recognition.

The only survivor, Leonardo Morita, 46, was in critical condition at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center with burns over 30 percent of his body, hospital spokesman Harvey Kern said.

Morita ``was able to tell us there were children upstairs, but the heat was so intense, there were flames coming from every window, we could not make entry,″ Wills said.

Authorities said Morita’s three children, ages 9 to 16, and their teen-age cousin were unaccounted for. Neighbors said that a housekeeper also lived in the home, and that Morita’s wife, Lusje, may have been out of town on business. A telephone directory listed Mrs. Morita as a mortgage broker.

Frederick George, a University of Southern California professor who lives across the street, said he heard a loud ``kaboom″ and then a series of smaller explosions.

``After the first loud explosion, it sounded like a bunch of fireworks going off,″ he said.

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