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Awakened by screams from elsewhere in the burning North Toledo home, Lynnita Stuart broke a second-floor window to provide an escape route for herself and her 10-year-old son.
But the boy somehow disappeared down a staircase and out the front door. His mother climbed through the window and clung to an eavestrough. After a few moments, she let go and fell to the ground.
"When I got out there, I wanted to look for my baby, but I couldn't move I hurt myself so bad," the 34-year-old woman tearfully said yesterday from her hospital bed at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. "I scooted to the front where the stairs come out and saw Da-Shawn."
Joy filled her injured body when she saw her son, Da-Shawn Davis, had made it outside alive, she said. He then quickly disappeared again, returning inside the burning building to rescue his 10-year-old cousin, Antonio Boone, Jr.
Ms. Stuart's story as one of four survivors came shortly after Wayne S. Powell, the man accused of setting the fire which killed four people - including two children - was arraigned in Toledo Municipal Court.
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Powell, 41, was being held in the Lucas County jail last night on a $1 million bond on aggravated murder, aggravated arson, and an unrelated felonious assault charge.
Killed in the fire Saturday were his ex-girlfriend, Mary Rose McCollum, 33; her 4-year-old son, Jamal McCollum-Myers; her 4-year-old niece, Sanaa Thomas; and her disabled and bedridden mother, Rose Mary McCollum, 52.
Powell declined a request for an interview after his arraignment, where he silently stood in a brown jail jumpsuit with his eyes cast downward. After the arraignment, the victims' relatives said they were pleased with his bond.
Powell has previously served two prison stints, including a six-year sentence for felonious assault, and has a history of violence - particularly against women, court records show.
Last year, Powell was accused of throwing an iron chair at Mary Rose McCollum, hitting her in the head, and striking her with a glass bottle in the face and head. She sustained several cuts and the bottom portion of her right nostril was amputated, records indicate.
In 2003, Powell was charged with domestic violence after he allegedly hit Ms. McCollum in the face with his hands. He was also charged with felonious assault in 1996 after he was accused of hitting her several times with a glass tabletop.
All these charges were dismissed because Ms. McCollum failed to appear in court, records show.
Powell was also charged with domestic violence and felonious assault in 1995 incidents involving his ex-wife. He was accused of slamming her against a wall, choking her, and punching her in the eye, according to court records.
In 1997, Ms. McCollum wrote letters to Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Doneghy asking that Powell be released on shock parole for his conviction on one of the felonious assaults against his ex-wife.
Powell, in a letter to the judge from prison, assured that "it is unlikely that I will commit another offense; the current prison experience has taught me that the consequences are quite devastating and self-defeating."
But hours after Saturday's fatal tragedy, Powell was accused of setting fire just inside a side door of the home at 814 St. John Ave. where the McCollums resided.
Police investigators said the fire occurred shortly after an argument during which he had threatened to kill one of the occupants, according to court records.
Ms. Stuart said Powell was at the house prior to the fire, asked for clothing, and wanted to stay.
"He couldn't take no for an answer. He told Mary he was going to kill her," she said, adding that Powell later called Ms. McCollum on the phone.
Fire investigators said the blaze began on a landing inside the side door.
Authorities investigating how the fire began said they are aware of an incident Oct. 19 in which there was an odor of gasoline on the porch. Firefighters hosed down the area and police were called. No one has been charged in connection with that incident.
Outside the boarded-up house, mourners yesterday stopped and left stuffed teddy bears along a railing on the front porch.
On the lawn, a wreath of pink and white silk flowers was placed next to a charred piece of vinyl siding.
Soot-covered household items were mixed with scorched roof shingles and portions of drywall, all piled on the lawn to the side of the house.
The stench of fire still hung slightly in the air.
Family and friends continued to gather around the corner at the home of Rose Mary McCollum's sister, Gloria Edmund, and her daughter, Kenya. The younger Ms. Edmund said that knowing someone was in custody brought some solace to the family.
"Him and her had a rocky relationship," she said. "She was telling him to stay away."
Ms. Edmund said Mary Rose McCollum was thinking about moving out because there were times that Powell got inside the house through a broken basement window.
Ms. Edmund said the family had become fearful of Powell and they were relieved to see he had been arrested.
"He had an argument earlier at the house. He knew all these people were there. He knew the kids were there," she said. "And he knew that his daughter and granddaughter were not there."
Ms. Edmund said that Powell's daughter and granddaughter often stayed at the house with Mary Rose.
Mary Rose's sisters said Powell threatened to kill their sibling, and those who knew her said she was afraid of him.
Kathy McCollum, another sister of Rose Mary, said the elder woman was a fun and loving person. She said one of the surviving boys remembers hearing Rose Mary yelling for help when the fire was raging through the home. The help the disabled woman was calling for was not for herself, but for Sanaa, who was later found dead with her inside a bedroom.
"She was so concerned about her family," Kathy McCollum said.
Omarro Burkhalter, Mary Rose's sister, said her sibling was a loving person and that her nephew, Jamal, was "a sweetheart and had the prettiest smile."
Relatives said the boy, who had just started school at a nearby Head Start program, will be buried with his mother.
Funeral arrangements are expected to be handled through Blanchard-Strabler Funeral Home on West Sylvania Avenue. Services likely will be held Saturday.
Staff writer Mark Reiter contributed to this report.
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