The grieving relatives of eight family members killed in a house fire learned shortly after a group funeral that the deadly blaze was no terrible accident after all, the mayor said Wednesday.
Test results confirmed the presence of accelerant in the May 21 fire that killed nine people, eight from the same family, during a sleepover party. City officials announced late Tuesday that the fire, initially described as accidental, was set.
"Yes, we found accelerant," Mayor Jane Campbell said Wednesday. "I had to tell the family. I didn't want them to hear it from the media, I wanted them to hear it from me."
The test results weren't available until after the funeral, she said.
There were no suspects, authorities said. They planned to give more details at news conference planned later Wednesday. Before the news conference, Pieter Wykoff, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, declined to discuss results of laboratory tests on evidence.
"Whoever is responsible really should be buried. He should not be allowed to see the light of day after so many people died," said Fannie Cockfield, great-grandmother of 13-year-old victim Miles Cockfield, a friend of the other children who lived in the house.
The neighborhood was shaken by the arson ruling, said Neta Dawson, who lives across the street.
"Whoever did it didn't have a heart," Dawson said as more mourners stopped at the waist-high pile of flowers and stuffed animals that stretched along the curb near the burned house.
Firefighters on Wednesday installed smoke detectors provided by the Red Cross in nearby homes. Fire officials said they found smoke detectors in the burned house but weren't sure if they were working.
Most of those who died were members of the extended Carter family. They all died of smoke inhalation, and three were burned so badly that DNA samples from family members were needed to confirm identifications.
Police Chief Michael C. McGrath, who attended the two-hour service Tuesday at the Cleveland Convention Center, estimated the crowd at 4,000. The 67,000-student Cleveland school system, Ohio's biggest, was closed for the day so classmates and teachers could attend the service.
"I see a whole lot of support," said Edward Banks, 34, whose sons gave mourners copies of a song that they recorded in honor of the victims. "It easily could have been our family. We had kids at our home last night."
"I've never seen nothing so sad in my life," said Robert Ivery, 34, who grew up with Carter and knew her children. "For so many homes and families and hearts to be touched in the way that they have with so many losses."
Campbell led the mourners in applauding firefighters, EMS crew members and police officers who responded to the fire and said the tragedy had unified the city.
"This has been an extraordinary effort by this community," she said.
Some caskets were decorated with stuffed animals and all eight were adorned with flowers.
"I love you all," said Evelyn Martin, mother of Medeia Carter, 33, who died in the fire with four of her six children. "I am grateful to God that she went with the babies and the babies went with her."
In addition to Carter and Miles Cockfield, the fire killed Earnest Tate Jr., 13; Devonte Carter, 15; Maleeya Williams, 12; Fakih Jones, 7; Antwon Jackson Jr., 14; Shauntavia Mitchell, 12; and Moses Williams Jr., whose sleepover was to celebrate his 14th birthday.
One man escaped unharmed from the fire, which critically burned a woman whose condition was upgraded last week to fair.
Burial for all nine was arranged at Whitehaven Memorial Park in suburban Richmond Heights in plots donated by a retired police detective and the cemetery.