Two girls killed in South Chicago fire officially identified

- Two girls who were killed in a fire last week at a South Chicago neighborhood apartment building have officially been identified by the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The blaze was first reported at 1:36 a.m. Tuesday in the three-story, courtyard apartment building in the 8100 block of South Essex, according to the Chicago Fire Department. It was upgraded to a three-alarm fire by 1:53 a.m.

A 3-month-old girl who lived in the building, Melanie Watson, was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 2:40 a.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy showed she died from injuries from a fall from height, and carbon monoxide toxicity.

The other two girls — Madison Watson, 4, and Shaniya Staples, 7; and 56-year-old Kirk Johnson, were later found dead inside the building after the fire was extinguished. Autopsies have ruled they died of thermal injuries and carbon monoxide toxicity.

All four of their deaths were ruled homicides, according to the medical examiner’s office.

A “person of interest” was initially questioned in connection with the fire, but was released Thursday without being charged. No suspects were in custody as of Monday afternoon, police said.

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