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Babysitter’s roommate charged with arson in Northeast Baltimore fire; kids who escaped still traumatized, family says

A man has been charged with intentionally setting a Plainfield Avenue home on fire, according to Baltimore police.
A man has been charged with intentionally setting a Plainfield Avenue home on fire, according to Baltimore police.(Kenneth K. Lam)

A man has been charged with intentionally setting the Northeast Baltimore fire that forced a babysitter to drop children out a second-story window into the arms of police officers.

Stephan Antonio Williams, 27, faces two dozen criminal charges, including seven counts of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree arson, assault and reckless endangerment, according to court records. He was arrested on Feb. 14 and is being held without bail.

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No attorney was listed for Williams in court records.

Nine people — including three boys, ages 3, 5 and 9, and a pair of police officers — were treated for smoke inhalation after the Feb. 9 fire, officials said. The Baltimore Fire Department determined last week that the 1 a.m. blaze at the home in the 5100 block of Plainfield Ave. was an arson.

The arson, which followed a 911 call to the house for a domestic larceny hours earlier, prompted a dramatic rescue on the part of the babysitter, a city police officer and a teenage neighbor.

Saleenah Gary, the 25-year-old babysitter who was watching the three boys at her rental home, said neighbors called police after hearing “yelling and a commotion" due to Williams, one of her roommates, stealing her money and a bus pass. Williams left the house before an officer arrived, Gary said, and she chose not to file a report.

Gary said she heard glass breaking later that night. “I grabbed the kids and ran upstairs.”

As the house became engulfed in flames and smoke, Gary said, she worried most about the 3-year-old, who she said suffers from asthma. She shouted out the window to police officers below: “I have kids! I have kids! There’s no time to wait for the ladder!”

“It was about the kids,” Gary said in an interview Friday. “I knew they didn’t have a lot of time.”

With firefighters initially dispatched to an incorrect address more than a mile away, 16-year-old Davonte Powell brought over ladders from his home across the street to help rescue Gary and the others trapped on the second floor.

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Raena Crank, the mother of the 3-year-old, said she was thankful for the quick thinking of Gary, a close family friend who watches her son and his cousins on weekends.

The boys and the babysitter have recovered from their injuries but remain traumatized from the experience of being trapped in a burning house, said Crank, 40, of South Baltimore.

“My son’s still having bad dreams,” she said. “That’s all he talk about, everything with the fire.”

Lisa Ray, the mother of the 5-year-old and 9-year-old, said they are shell-shocked, especially her younger son, Jermiah.

He and his brother Nathan have returned to school at Westport Academy, but doctors’ bills are coming due and both boys are in therapy, she said.

“I’m just grateful they’re still here," she said. “I would have lost both of my sons.”

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Calvin Bethea, the children’s uncle, said he was glad to hear about the arrest.

“I’m happy that justice is going to get served," Bethea said. "Justice for the kids.”

Gary said Williams deserves to go to jail.

“You didn’t even think about nobody but yourself," said the babysitter, adding that she can’t seem to stop smelling smoke. “Seven people could have lost their life.”

She’s glad everyone, especially the children, survived.

"I would’ve had to explain to these kids’ mothers what happened to these kids,” she said.

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