- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) — A 27-year-old man has been charged with setting his cousin’s house on fire in western Illinois early yesterday and killing her five children, authorities and a relative said.

Four other persons were injured in the blaze, including one who was airlifted to a Springfield hospital in critical condition, said Quincy police Sgt. Doug Schlueter. A relative said that the children’s parents, who tried vainly to save them, were among the injured and that their father was the most seriously hurt.

The bodies of four boys and a girl — ages 5 months to 10 years — were found on the second floor, officials said.

Authorities said they arrested Zachary Q. Meeks, 27, after he was questioned about the fire that began at about 3 a.m. in this community along the Mississippi River about 90 miles west of Springfield.

Police released few details about their investigation at a press conference yesterday and would not cite a motive.

The Adams County coroner identified the children as Kendall Edwards, 10; Althea Clark, 9; Camron Clark, 5; Khalil Clark, 3, and Kejuan Clark, 5 months.

Their parents, Jeanette and Keith Clark, were injured while trying to save them, Michelle Gavin, Jeanette Clark’s sister, told WGEM-TV in Quincy. She said Mr. Clark was the victim who needed to be airlifted to the Springfield hospital.

Miss Gavin said Mr. Meeks, who is her cousin, had a grudge with the victims’ parents stemming from a drug-related prison sentence. She said Mr. Meeks poured gasoline on the front of her sister’s house and set it on fire.

“I’m devastated,” Miss Gavin said.

The fire seemed to spread quickly and flames could be seen shooting through the house’s windows, neighbors said. Firefighters said they could see smoke from at least a quarter mile away.

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