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Police Suspect Arson in Mich. Fire

April 9, 2000

ROYAL OAK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) _ A neighbor who helped save children from a house fire last week received a threatening note similar to one sent to the children’s mother a week before the fatal fire, authorities say.

Police suspect arson caused the Thursday night fire, which killed five children and injured four others. No arrests had been made as of Sunday, said Oakland County sheriff’s Capt. Mike McCabe.

Authorities were investigating a note left Saturday at the home of Alvin Wesson, a neighbor who helped drag residents from the burning house. The note read ``Caution″ and listed residents of Wesson’s home, McCabe said.

The note will be analyzed for fingerprints. ``We’ll see how it fits into the puzzle,″ McCabe said.

The children’s mother, Marie Dean, told authorities she had received a similar note in her mailbox seven to 10 days earlier ``and kind of dismissed it at that time,″ McCabe said.

Dean, 39, her eight children and a niece were home when the fire began, apparently set on a front porch. No smoke detectors were in the house, fire authorities said.

Four of Dean’s children and a niece were killed. Her 13-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter remained hospitalized Sunday. Two children were released earlier.

The burned-out shell of the Deans’ home has become a shrine of balloons, stuffed animals, flowers and crosses left by mourners.

``I knew every last one of the kids,″ Sade Schwartz, 15, said while she and another neighbor, Markesha Evans, 13, tied balloons outside the house. ``It hurts. I can’t even explain how much it hurts.″

A $7,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.

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