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Published: Friday, 3/30/2001

One year later, Lima recalls five who died in house firebombing

BY KELLY LECKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

LIMA, Ohio - It's been a year since Marian Wright and four children died in the two-story house near the end of Leland Avenue.

They were victims of a terrible fire in the middle of the night when 10 men threw Molotov cocktails into the house.

Yesterday, on the first anniversary of their deaths, family and friends gathered at the site of the fire to honor Ms. Wright, her two children, Marquis, 16, and Marshonda, 13, and her fiance's children, Rodnina, 17, and Ravis, 14.

There was no talk of the men who set the fire in hopes of smoking out Ms. Wright's fiance, Rodney Bunley, and stealing back the drugs he took. The last of those men were sentenced this week. All are in prison.

There was no mention of Bunley, who jumped out a second-story window and was the only one who lived. Some of the men would later say Bunley was their only target, that they didn't know anyone else lived in the house.

There was no discussion of the investigation or the trials.

Instead, the crowd of about 100 talked about healing. They read poems and sang songs and encouraged each other to remember Ms. Wright and the children as happy, caring, popular people.

“Sometimes our heart is broken, and it goes one step deeper and our soul is broken,” said Victor Bevis, a cousin of Ms. Wright. “We come together to ask God to mend us.”

The crowd stood in a circle on the plot of land where the two-story wooden house once stood. A white picket fence, a gazebo, and a neatly decorated bench are there now as a memorial to the victims.

Many wore shirts with the family's photos and nicknames on them, some in dark red and others in light blue.

Friends released balloons as others held up candles and sang songs. Many prayed. Family members sobbed and hugged each other as someone read a poem written by Marshonda's classmates.

In the crowd were police officers and firefighters who remember the night they tried to put out the fire that had consumed the house before they arrived. Friends and grandmothers and neighbors attended as well.

A good part of the eighth-grade class at West Middle School, which Marshonda attended, showed up with signs they made after the fire last year. The posters were signed with messages like, “We'll Miss You” and “We'll see you in a better place.” They've been in storage for the last year.

“She had a good attitude. She was really funny and nice. We miss her,” said TyLynn Long, 13, who was a classmate and friend.

Brenda Martin, who runs a teen center in Lima, urged the young people in the crowd to remember the young ones who died and learn from the tragedy.

“Look at this event and remember, as you walk the halls and the streets of the community fighting and doing the name-calling you do, remember the children here.”

Earlene Foster, who organized the memorial, said she and other friends wanted to remember the fire and show support to the family members.

“We wanted them to know we're still here for them,” she said.

Former fire chief John Brookman said the firefighters and he needed closure. “It's a very hard thing for a firefighter,” he said. “This was just horrible.”



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