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Man Charged in Fire Deaths of Kids

March 26, 2001

CHICAGO (AP) _ Five children ages 5 and under were killed in a fire after being left alone inside a second-floor apartment, and the father of some of the youngsters was charged Monday with child endangerment.

The fire began shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday in the two-story brick apartment building. The children’s mother was at work.

Antoine Lee, 28, the father of some of the children and stepfather of the others, told police he left the children alone for five or six minutes while he went to the store for cigarettes, police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said.

But it appears that the fire smoldered for a half-hour in two mattresses in the living room before neighbors called to report it, Fire Department spokesman Kevin MacGregor said.

Lee was charged with five counts of child endangerment.

Firefighters found the youngsters in the living room and bedroom. Fire Commissioner James Joyce said their exit was blocked, possibly by a refrigerator or cabinet, but they could have gotten out if an adult had been there.

He said it appeared that the children were awake while the fire smoldered.

``This is not much of a fire; the loss of life is just unnecessary and tragic,″ he said. ``It’s a really sad scene and it’s clearly a case of negligence.″

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

There were no smoke detectors in the apartment, fire Cmdr. Tim Stokes said.

The victims were identified as Patrick Lee, 1; LeShon Anderson, 2; Domeinique Wyma, 4; Tonia Anderson, 4; and Demetri Wyma, 5.

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