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Police Charge Man With Murder After Devastating Fire Killed 4 In South Shore

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Sep 14, 2016 3:31PM

Regiland Hester, CPD handout

A Chicago man has been charged with murder and arson after a fire killed four people in South Shore last month.

Reginald Hester, 51, of the 8000 block of South Essex Avenue, was arrested Monday and charged with four felony counts of first degree murder and two counts of arson after police identified him as the person who set fire to an apartment building a block south of his home. The fire happened Aug. 23 at about 1:37 a.m.

Four people died in the South Shore blaze, including a 3-month-old. The child, Melanie Watson, died on her way to the hospital, and two other girls, Madison Watson, 4, and Shaniya Staples, 7, were found dead inside an apartment after first responders extinguished the fire, according to the Sun-Times. A 56-year-old Kirk Johnson was also found dead from thermal injuries and carbon monoxide toxicity. All were on the third floor of the building, but Johnson lived in a different apartment from the children. At the time, police labelled the fire as "suspicious" and investigated it for foul play. The Sun-Times has a harrowing account from several building residents of how they escaped the fire.

The fire at 8114 S. Essex Ave. gutted the building and displaced dozens of residents, according to the Fire Department:

Hester is due to be arraigned in central bond court at the Cook County criminal courthouse Wednesday afternoon.