Child victims identified in deadly Arcadia house fire
ARCADIA, Fla. Three children died in an early Saturday morning house fire that authorities believe was set by their grandfather’s ex-girlfriend.
Arcadia residents Marcus Clark, 10, Kiani Clark, 8, and Kemaren Clark, 4, perished in the fire that began around 4:30 a.m. in their grandfather’s home on South Lee Avenue, according to the Arcadia Police Department. The children were sleeping when the blaze broke out.
Marian Evette Williams, 49, of West Davidson Street in Bartow, was arrested in connection with the deadly fire, authorities said. Williams, who is the ex-girlfriend of the boys’ grandfather, is facing charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and arson.
She is being held without bond after an initial court appearance Sunday morning.
Her next court appearance is set for April 10.
A woman was also inside the house at the time of the fire, but she was able to escape unharmed, authorities said.
Community grieving together
Marcus was the ambitious, energetic go-getter. Kiani, known to many simply as KK, was the middle child but looked after the others as though he was the oldest. Kemaren’s face “always had a beautiful smile” on it.
That’s how Emma Clark, the boys’ grandmother, remembers them.
“Not a day’s gonna go by that we’re not going to remember them, think of them,” Clark said Sunday. “I’m getting choked up.”
The pain of the deaths transcended the family and touched many within the tightknit community, including retired teacher Kay Reed.
“I was heartbroken,” Reed said. “These boys are very, very special children.”
The Clark brothers loved to play outside, Reed recalls. Sometimes, a member of the Arcadia Police Department would join in the fun, Officer Quinn Jones said.
“They go around playing basketball, skateboarding, playing football,” Jones said. “Every blue moon we have officers stop off with them and do the same thing with them.”
The loss of such “loving,” “happy” children was a shock to many, according to Jones.
“We don’t have a big crime rate here,” he said. “It just devastated everyone.”
Emma Clark said she’ll call on her faith in God to get through a time of mourning that’s only just beginning.
“We’re just trying to pull together and move forward because the days to come, we know, it’s gonna get even harder,” she said.
Community leaders are preparing to set up a fund for the family with a bank on Monday. They’re also organizing memorial events.
“Let’s help this family,” Reed said. “They’re a wonderful family and we’re a wonderful town, and this is a time where we can reach out and touch from the heart.”