Report: Fatal Arcadia arson suspect threatened victims’ grandfather before blaze

ARCADIA, Fla. The woman accused of setting a house fire that killed the three grandchildren of her ex-boyfriend was charged with breaking into his home and assaulting him the previous day.

Marian Evette Williams, 49, broke into the South Lee Avenue home early Friday morning while Arnold Mele was sleeping and “started choking him and was threatening to kill him,” an Arcadia Police Department report said.

Williams claimed she entered the home because she was staying there for a few days and wanted to retrieve some clothes, the report said.

“Williams stated she entered Mele’s room to ask where her clothes were, when she pulled the covers off Mele she saw he was in bed with another woman,” the report said.

The woman, Theresa Redding, who is identified in the report as his girlfriend, said she saw Williams hitting Mele.

Williams was booked into the DeSoto County Jail at 1:52 a.m. Friday on charges of battery and burglary of an occupied dwelling, the report said. She received a $10,750 bond. 

She bonded out of jail at 12:27 p.m. Friday.

At about 4:35 a.m. Saturday, Mele’s home was on fire.

Mele’s grandchildren, Marcus Clark, 10, Kiani Clark, 8, and Kemaren Clark, 4, were killed in the blaze.

Mele and Redding were able to escape.

Williams, who was arrested at 6:05 a.m. Saturday, is facing additional charges of arson, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree murder.

On Sunday, Mele and Redding filed no-contact orders against Williams.

The orders were entered into the court system on Monday.

Community reaction

James Ramsey described his three cousins as eager to learn with permanent smiles on their faces.

“It’s like you want to think it’s a dream, but then again you don’t even want to dream about something like this, you know,” he said. “You think about their faces and it strikes home you know? They’re gone. You’re never gonna see them again and that’s the saddest thing.”

Kay Reed, a local community leader, said the incident has brought neighbors closer together.

“These boys need to be embraced,” she said. “They and the family need to be embraced. We’re gonna do that and were gonna do that for these children. We’re gonna love and show how to love.”

She described the person who set the fire as “very disturbed.”

“This is the most tragedy that I have experienced in 35 years,” she said. “I mean innocent, innocent, innocent little children. Little angels.”

The two oldest boys attended Memorial Elementary School, where students are currently on spring break.

Moving forward will be challenging for students and teachers once they return, said Robin Favila, a teacher assistant at the school.

Kiani, 8, was in Favila’s daily reading group. Marcus, 10, kept her company during the morning parent drop-off.

Marcus talked Favila’s ear off about the video game Minecraft, she said.

“It’s gonna be very hard for those teachers when they do attendance and they have to cross that name off the list, that it’s final,” she said. “It’s going to be very difficult.”

Taylor Bisacky