Owner still sought after fatal fire

House where 4 died could be demolished if city isn't contacted soon

June 14, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore officials continued their search yesterday for the owner of a rowhouse in which four people died in a fire over the weekend, and they said they could demolish his Amity Street house if they don't hear from him by tomorrow.

Housing inspectors condemned the three-story dwelling in West Baltimore hours after a fire early Saturday that killed a woman and her three grandchildren.

The owner has 72 hours from Monday to meet with city housing officials and present a plan for the property, which could include tearing it down or making repairs. If the city does not hear from him, it can send in a wrecking crew and level the house or take him to housing court.

"We absolutely have to talk to him regarding this property," said Zack Germroth, a spokesman for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

Fire investigators determined that a candle caused the fire that killed Lily-Bell Posley, 53, and her grandchildren, Shydeim Scott, 2; Nyjerra McCray, 4; and Marquan Williams, 6.

A fourth sibling, Dominique Derrico, 10, remained in critical condition yesterday at Johns Hopkins Children's Center with burns over 60 percent of his body. Their mother was not at home at the time of the fire. Posley was visiting from Pennsylvania.

Funeral plans could not be learned yesterday.

The family had been living in the home for three to six months, but power had been cut off since July because the previous tenant had not paid his utility bill. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said no one called to restore service.

Housing officials say they want to question the owner, David O. Oniovosa, about the family's circumstances and to determine whether he knew about his tenants' plight. It is the responsibility of tenants to get electricity hooked up.

Oniovosa's absence has frustrated city officials, who sent housing inspectors to seven of his properties yesterday.

Assistant State's Attorney Denise Duval, who prosecutes housing code violations, said no problems were found at five properties Oniovosa is thought to own. Two other addresses are vacant lots.

One of the five houses, at 2234 Brookfield Ave. in Northwest Baltimore, was cited for improper access in April, and Oniovosa was charged with a criminal violation. Duval said inspectors found a back gate improperly padlocked, and the charge was dropped when the lock was removed.

The only violation cited for the Amity Street house, which Oniovosa bought for $2,500 in 1996, was a rat-infestation problem in 1997. It had no outstanding violations at the time of the fire except the lack of electricity, which officials said they did not know about.

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