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Man accused of setting fatal fire to hurt his mother

December 31, 1996

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) _ A man was charged with murder and arson for setting his mother’s apartment house on fire, killing her, a baby and two other women.

Johnny Williams, 30, was arraigned Monday and held on $500,000 bail. He could face life in prison.

Williams told officers that he set the fire to kill his mother, Gloria Williams, because of a dispute they had, according to a police affidavit.

Williams was arrested shortly after the blaze early Sunday at a five-unit apartment house in this city, about 80 miles east of Chicago. Four people escaped from the building, with one woman jumping from a second-story window.

Ms. Williams, 45, was found dead in a first-floor apartment, along with Louise Thomas, 59. Terry Williams, 36, and 10-month-old daughter LaDeja Williams, who were unrelated to Gloria and Johnny Williams, were found in a second-floor apartment.

The fire was set at the only exit for several apartments, Public Safety Director Milton Agay said. ``Their only means of escape was to walk into a burning inferno.″

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