Investigators suspect neighborhood teen-agers deliberately set a two-alarm fire that killed Katherine "Kitty" Broady, a longtime host of Baltimore gospel radio shows, about midnight Thursday in her home in the 3700 block of Liberty Heights Avenue.
Ms. Broady, 60, who had emphysema, was apparently overcome by smoke in a second-floor bedroom as she tried to escape the fire that engulfed her three-story, white frame house. She was pronounced dead at the scene and her death has been ruled a homicide.
Three others tenants in the house escaped. Mary Ruffin, 69, and her teen-age nephew, Anthony Ruffin, were treated for smoke inhalation at Sinai Hospital. Louis Fuell, 25, escaped without serious injury after a neighbor alerted him by banging on the door.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze shortly before 1 a.m. and summoned the police after witnesses told investigators that they had seen five teen-agers with two gas cans standing near the back porch of the house.
Investigators determined that the wooden porch was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze. The fire spread quickly along the rear of the house and up through the floors, trapping Ms. Broady inside.
Although investigators suspect the teen-agers, they had no motive yesterday for the fire that killed Ms. Broady, a respected gospel radio announcer and advocate for such causes as rights for the homeless, and mental health and prison reform.
Her career in broadcast radio spanned nearly 30 years, during which she was a host for gospel radio shows for WEBB, WCBM and WWAN in Annapolis. She also served as liaison between the stations and their listeners, often using the microphone to voice the concerns of the poor.
"Her program was well-liked," said Edna Browne, bishop of Miracle Temple of God in the 1800 block of Fulton Avenue.
"She played the old hymns and the new ones, and with everything she played she would always put herself into the music. She always made the dedications so personal," said Ms. Browne, who often asked Ms. Broady to serve as master of ceremonies for her church's functions.
During the late 1960s, she sponsored a citywide benefit to feed the hungry and helped to expose problems in the city jail system after receiving letters from dozens of inmates who tuned in daily to her program.
Ms. Broady left broadcasting in the late 1970s to work for the city's Urban Services Agency. However, she returned three years ago when a longtime friend offered her the early afternoon slot on WBGR's All Gospel Radio, located in the 300 block of North Charles Street.
"She was just too good of a talent to let go to waste," said Naomi Durant, WBGR director of programming and operations, who had encouraged her longtime friend to resume her career at the station.
"Her show was most popular among the senior listeners, but everybody liked her because she had a lot of humor, wit -- she was just so down to earth that anybody could relate to her," Ms. Durant added.
Those who knew Ms. Broady said her voice always seemed so sweet and mellow as she announced every record, including one of her favorites: "The Lord Is My Light," which she played every day.
"She always use to say 'smile into the microphone and your voice will come out beautiful,' " Pastor Durant said.