Saturday, August 05, 2000

Lima neighbors pitch in to buy lot

Memorial planned where fire took lives of five victims

The Associated Press

        LIMA — Neighbors have bought the lot where a house fire killed a woman and four children and plan to create a memorial with flowers and trees.

        “Nothing's going to be built there,” said Belinda John, who bought the property for $2,000. “No one is ever going to build over there.”

        The fire that police say was set has brought together people in the working-class neighborhood.

        “It's a horrible way to pull a neighborhood together, but it really has,” Ms. John said. “I've gotten to know everyone. They feel like family.”

        Several neighbors have volunteered to help plant flowers, and Ms. John wants to plant five trees and decorate them with lights.

        The firebombing on March 29 was part of a plan to recover drugs from the fire's only survivor, Rodney Bunley, according to statements suspects made to police.

        Killed were his fiancee, Marian Wright, 33; her children, Marshonda Wright, 13, and Marquis Wright, 16; and Mr. Bunley's children, Rodnina Bunley, 17, and Ravis Bunley, 14.

        Three men have pleaded guilty, and seven others are awaiting trial.

        An Allen County judge on Thursday ruled that Corey Summerhill, 22, could not change his guilty plea.

        Mr. Summerhill escaped a possible death sentence last month by pleading guilty to five charges of complicity in aggravated murder. He was given five life sentences with eligibility for parole after 20 years.

        The house's burned-out shell sat for several weeks while inves tigators gathered evidence. Its original owners tore down the house a month ago because the city said it was a safety hazard.

        The Lima Police Department left it to the owners to decide what to do with the house, Lt. Steven Blackburn said.

        He said blowing debris and other safety concerns forced the demolition.

        “It was a health situation,” he said.

        Ms. John and her husband, Larry, purchased the property.

        “Every time I looked out that window, I'd see the flames,” she told the Lima News. “It was months before I could even sleep upstairs. It was a constant reminder.”

        She said she'll never forget what happened.

        “You wonder if you'll ever get over it.”


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