Arson Fire Kills Four Children
Feb. 03, 2000
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ A man suspected of splashing a flammable liquid on an apartment floor and sparking a blaze that killed four young children was arrested early today.
Whitney Spencer, 45, faces charges of murder, attempted murder and aggravated arson, Sheriff's Col. Bob Garner said.
Spencer had been picked out of a photo lineup put together from witness descriptions and neighborhood interviews following the Wednesday night blaze, Garner said.
Spencer was suspected of knocking on the victims' door and asking to speak to a woman who lived at the apartment. After learning she was not home, Garner said, the intruder splashed a flammable liquid on the floor and set it on fire before fleeing.
An elderly man in the home, identified as the grandfather, and another woman were able to rush three children to safety, but four others ran up to the second floor of the apartment because they were frightened by the flames, authorities said.
The elderly man was turned back by intense smoke and heat when he tried to return for the remaining children.
Firefighters made their way inside as they fought the blaze and found the bodies of the four children.
Authorities have not determined a motive for the fire nor have they released the names of the victims, who were between the ages of 1 and 7.
Family and neighbors could be seen sobbing outside the smoldering apartment, which was part of a complex in a neighborhood across the Mississippi River from central New Orleans.
Red Cross officials said four families were forced out of neighboring apartments.