- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

BALTIMORE — The mother of a 7-year-old boy killed in a house fire last week made it to his funeral yesterday — her first time out of the hospital since her rescue from the fire that killed her son and five others last week.

Oneika Ellis, who was critically injured, was pushed into the sanctuary of Israel Baptist Church in a wheelchair, connected to an oxygen tank, her arms wrapped in bandages, her bare feet supported by a pillow. Family members quickly joined her at the white casket of her son, MarQuis D. Ellis.

MarQuis was the first victim to be positively identified from the fast-moving fire that swept through a two-story row house in East Baltimore a week ago. The fire trapped many of the 13 persons who lived there. The five other victims were burned so severely that fire investigators have had a hard time identifying them. Four members of the large, extended family were critically injured, and three suffered less- severe injuries.

The fire’s cause hasn’t been determined.

“There was nothing that stood out to the fire department at the beginning of the investigation that suggests any malicious intent,” said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a fire department spokesman. They think the fire began on the first floor at the front of the house.

Miss Ellis’ attendance at the funeral was unexpected. She arrived about an hour after the service had begun, and just minutes after a church officer announced that she was en route from the hospital by ambulance.

When she entered, mourners rose to their feet, clapping and shouting: “Thank You, Jesus.”

She remained at the front of the church for a few minutes, crying and wiping her eyes as she looked down at her son, whose casket included a sculpted angel.

Then a white veil over his body was removed, the coffin softly closed and his mother was rolled to the first pew, where other family members sat. She was returned to the hospital after about 10 minutes.

She and Deneen Thomas, the family matriarch who is in critical condition, are still in the hospital.

Above the choir, a vivid, stained-glass window depicted a rising sun.

“Little MarQuis is now living in a house not made by hands,” said the Rev. Marvis May of the New Friendship Baptist Church.

But the boy’s family continues to struggle with their pain, MarQuis’ uncle Randall Gilliam said.

“It’s still hard,” he said. Ms. Ellis is physically weak, but “she’s holding. She’s having problems breathing.”

Standing outside after the service, another of MarQuis’ uncles, David Ellis, was wearing a T-shirt created by family members using pictures of the boy.

Above the pictures reads “R.I.P. MarQuis.” Underneath, the shirts refer to MarQuis’ lifetime, saying simply: “Sunrise Nov. 15, 1999, Sunset May 22, 2007.”

A funeral is scheduled today for another child killed in the fire, 3-year-old Nijuan Thomas.

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