5 children killed in Illinois house fire
QUINCY, Ill. -- A man was arrested on charges of setting his cousin's house on fire in western Illinois early yesterday, killing her five children, authorities said.
Four other people were injured in the blaze, including one who was flown to a Springfield hospital in critical condition, said police Sergeant Doug Schlueter. A relative said the children's parents, who tried to save them, were among the injured, and that their father was the most seriously hurt.
The bodies of four boys and a girl -- 5 months to 10 years old -- were found on the second floor, officials said.
Authorities said they arrested Zachary Q. Meeks, 27, after he was questioned about the fire that began about 3 a.m. in this community along the Mississippi River, about 90 miles west of Springfield.
Police released few details about their investigation yesterday and would not cite a motive.
The Adams County coroner identified the children as Kendall Edwards, 10; Althea Clark, 9; Camron Clark, 5; Khalil Clark, 3, and Kejuan Clark, 5 months.
Michelle Gavin, the sister of Jeanette Clark, said Meeks, who is her cousin, had a grudge with the victims' parents stemming from a drug-related prison sentence. She said Meeks poured gas on the front of her sister's house and set it on fire.
Meeks was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated arson, and one count of arson, police said. A prosecutor said Meeks would appear in court today.
Rescuers arrived to find flames shooting out the windows of the two-story brick home, authorities and neighbors said.
One firefighter suffered minor burns to the face, and two other people hurt were treated at a hospital and released, officials said.
Police said Meeks was being held in Adams County Jail.