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Archive for Tuesday, January 19, 1993

FORMER TENANT THREATENED TO BURN BUILDING, TENANTS SAY

January 19, 1993

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Two former tenants of an apartment building where an arson fire early Sunday killed two teen-agers said they told police in June that another tenant threatened to burn down the building.

Carla Brown and her sister, Tonya Brown, said they heard the threats while living at the four-unit building at 714 W. 25th. The building's management said the man and his wife moved out of their apartment on Saturday.

At 2:44 a.m. Sunday, authorities were called to a fire in a vacant ground-floor apartment. LaTonya Farmer, 17, who lived in a second-floor apartment, died later Sunday from smoke inhalation. At 3:45 p.m. Monday, authorities were notified that Brandy Martin, a 13-year-old Lawrence girl who was visiting LaTonya Farmer when the fire started, had died from injuries she suffered in the fire.

Authorities who were investigating the blaze said this morning that they would not comment about the cause.

Lawrence Fire Marshal Rich Barr said investigators had sent samples of materials gathered from the building to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to determine what caused the fire. He said the KBI had not returned results of tests.

Barr said investigators had questioned the man who moved out Saturday but added that authorities hadn't zeroed in on a suspect.

Carla Brown, who in October moved out of the apartment where the fire started, said she and LaTonya Farmer had called police in June after they heard the man shouting threats to other tenants.

"He threatened everybody in the apartment building that he was going to burn the place down," she said.

Her sister, who lived upstairs from Carla Brown, said the man made similar threats several times. Tonya Brown said the man and his wife fought frequently.

When her mother complained about the constant fighting, Tonya Brown said, the man told her: "I don't give a . . . about anybody else in the building. I'll burn this place down."

"He was crazy," Tonya Brown said.

It was unclear this morning whether investigators knew last summer about the threats.

Lawrence Police Lt. Mike Hall said he didn't recall seeing such a report. Douglas County Assistant Dist. Atty. Frank Diehl, who was responsible for filing criminal charges during June, said he never saw a police report about the threats.

Barr urged anyone with information about the blaze to contact investigators at 841-0007 Ext. 171, or call in tips to 1-800-KS-CRIME.

He said the Kansas Crime hotline was offering a reward for information. He did not know the amount of the reward.

Barr would not comment about reports from several neighbors who said they had seen people using drugs in the vacant apartment.

Two people who were injured in the fire remained hospitalized today.

Ella Farmer, 43, LaTonya Farmer's mother, was listed in serious condition today at the Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan. LaTonya Farmer's niece, Monechia Fisher, 7, also remained hospitalized at KUMC.

Authorities said that before she succumbed to smoke and heat, LaTonya Farmer passed two other nieces out of a window to safety. The girls were identified as Dejanelle Lockette, 2, and Tiffany Lockette, 4.

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