Fatal Kankakee fire ruled arson, charges pending

A fire that left two boys, ages 2 and 4, dead last week in downstate Kankakee has been ruled arson and a suspect is in custody.

The younger boy, Jushaun Watson, was pronounced dead at 12:10 p.m. Sunday at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood; and 4-year-old Justice Stewart died at 3:54 p.m. Friday at Comer Children’s Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

An autopsy for Justice on Monday did not rule on cause and manner of death, with results pending further investigation. Autopsy results for Jushaun weren’t immediately available.

A male suspect is in custody in connection with the fire, which has been ruled an arson, according to Kankakee Fire Chief Ron Young.

He is being interviewed and charges are expected to be filed “in the near future,” Young said Monday afternoon. The blaze was thought to have started in a rear stairwell of the building.

The boys were airlifted to the hospitals with severe burns following the fire, which started about 1:45 a.m. Wednesday in a two-story building in the 800 block of West Station Street, Young said.

When firefighters arrived, they saw smoke billowing from the second floor and residents hanging out windows, Young said.

In addition to the boys, a 65-year-old woman suffered smoke inhalation; a 25-year-old man burned his hands and jumped out of a window; and a 22-year-old woman burned her hands. Their conditions were stabilized at hospitals, Young said.

A firefighter also suffered minor burns while battling the blaze and was treated at the scene.

It took crews about an hour and a half to put out the flames. Twenty-two people were displaced, Young said.