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Ex-Congressmen’s Kin Die in Fire

September 16, 1999

PIONEER, Calif. (AP) _ Three grandchildren of former U.S. Reps. Bob Mathias of California and Bill Alexander of Arkansas have been killed in a house fire along with their father.

Authorities were investigating whether the father set the fire, which had engulfed the two-story house and its attached garage by the time firefighters arrived, sheriff’s Commander Mark Anderson said Wednesday.

The bodies of Timothy Halstead, 33, Haven Halstead, 8, Jordan Halstead, 5, and Elijah Halstead, 4, were found in the rubble, Mathias said.

``They are my sweet grandchildren and I love them very much,″ Mathias said in a telephone interview from his Fresno home.

Halstead’s estranged wife, Alyse, 31, said she had dropped off the children at the home 120 miles east of San Francisco in the Sierra foothills a few hours before the fire Tuesday.

Anderson said identities have not been confirmed, but that he believed the bodies were those of Halstead and the children.

Mathias is married to Alyse Halstead’s mother, Gwen, and is the children’s stepgrandfather. Gwen Mathias was previously married to Alexander, Alyse Halstead’s father and the children’s grandfather.

Mathias, 68, was a two-time Olympic decathlon winner who represented a Central Valley district as a Republican from 1966-1974. Alexander, a longtime Arkansas Democrat, was defeated in 1992.

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