Bond denied for landlord, maintenance man in Cicero file

March 5, 2010 2:58:33 PM PST
Murder and arson charges have been filed in connection to a fire that killed seven people- including four children- in Cicero.

Lawrence Myers, who owned the building, and Marion Comier, who worked as the maintenance man, are accused of setting the fire on February 14. Prosecutors say the pair plotted to torch the building for the insurance money.

"It hurts so much. It just hurts so much inside," said Elijah Grays Sr., victims' relative.

Elijah Grays clutched a bible as he left Friday's court appearance for the Cicero landlord and the maintenance man who was allegedly hired to set a fire for $250,000 of insurance money. The Valentine's Day blaze killed 7 people-- six members of the Grays and Gist family, including a 3-day-old baby.

"When they said it was the maintenance man and the landlord, I couldn't believe that someone could do something like that," said Allison Grays, victim's relative.

A judge denied bail for 60-year-old Lawrence Myers and 47-year-old Marion Andre Comier after the two were charged with 7 counts of first-degree murder and 2 counts of aggravated arson for the fatal February 14th fire.

"As a mother, it is heart wrenching to know that someone lost their 3-day-old baby. Her life as well as her baby for the greed of someone looking to cash in on an insurance policy," said Anita Alvarez, Cook County state's attorney.

In court, prosecutors say Myers was in financial trouble unable to pay the mortgage on an apartment building in Wisconsin he owned and could not sell. They add days after the fire, three witnesses came forward telling Cicero police they had heard the men talking about burning down the building.

A witness agreed to wear a wire and then secretly taped five days of conversations of the accused implicating themselves. In those conversations, Comier discusses with Myers how he used a mixture of gasoline and oil to start the fire and disguise the smell, saying, "I dumped it and threw the match and walked out and that was it."

The fire started in the rear of an empty first floor unit of the building, then raced up a back staircase trapping the occupants in a second floor attic. The men were arrested Wednesday night when Myers was taken to the VA Hospital for medical treatment.

"He told a Cicero detective at that time. He told Andre to set the house on fire when the children were at school and the women at work," said Mary Lacy, asst. Cook County state's attorney.

Byron Reed, 20; his girlfriend, Sallie Gist, 19; and their sons, Rayshawn Reed, 3, and Brian Reed, 3 days, all died in the fire. Gist's twin 16-year-old brother and sister Elijah and Elisha Gist and family friend 18-year-old Tiera Davidson also died.

"I'm glad they arrested them that it is moving forward? but we'll never really find peace, I don't think," said Megan, aunt of Tiera.

Just after the blaze, a Cicero spokesman said that the structure has a "one-inch thick" file of complaints and reports of overcrowding, poor sanitation and improper upkeep of the property, spanning several years. But town officials found no evidence before the fire of too many occupants.

Because it's believed some 20 people lived in three units, the issue over overcrowding in Cicero is being debated again. And -- Cicero police say more charges could come as a result of their ongoing investigation.