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Date: 10/14/2008 4:54 PM

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN
Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A man indicted this month on charges of setting a fire that killed a woman and eight children at a birthday sleepover said he would never do anything to harm a child, and that he felt the same pain as relatives of the victims.

“I would never do anything like that,” Antun Lewis, 24, told The Associated Press in a short handwritten note mailed from prison and received Tuesday.

The May 21, 2005, fire killed Medeia Carter, 33, along with eight youngsters, including four of her five children. The deaths horrified Cleveland residents and drew 4,000 people to the victims’ funeral at a convention center.

“The people that know me know that I am crazy about kids and know that I am against anybody that is out to do any harm to a child,” Lewis said in a neatly printed, 12-line response to the AP’s mailed questions. It was signed with his printed name.

Lewis was indicted by a federal grand jury Oct. 1 and charged with arson. He is to be arraigned Oct. 30 and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Authorities said Lewis apparently knew Carter’s mother but haven’t detailed the relationship. Lewis described himself as a “good friend” of the family.

“All the kids that was in that house know me very will and everytime they saw me I had something for them I didn’t care how many it was I made sure I had something for all of them, so when that happend to them it hurt me just as much as it hurt they familys, because they was like family to me to,” Lewis wrote.

U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards said Tuesday he would not comment on Lewis’ letter. Court records don’t list a defense attorney representing Lewis, who is locked up at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville on unrelated drug and weapon charges.

Carter and the children were found on the second floor of the 2 1/2-story, 99-year-old home located in a poor neighborhood about 3 miles from downtown. All died of smoke inhalation.

Carter rented the house with a subsidy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a connection that gave federal prosecutors jurisdiction in the case.

The investigation had been slowed by differences between county and federal prosecutors, but both agencies agreed to go ahead with a federal trial, with a county assistant prosecutor helping.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Date: 10/1/2008 6:10 PM

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A man already in prison on drug and weapons charges was indicted Wednesday in a 2005 house fire that killed nine people, including eight children at a birthday sleepover.

Antun Lewis, 24, of Cleveland, was charged with arson in the house fire in May 2005 in a poor neighborhood that outraged residents across Cleveland. Lewis could face the death penalty if convicted.

Friends and relatives of the victims had expressed frustration with the slow investigation by federal, county and city authorities.

“This case has haunted this community for 3½ years,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mason. “It’s been a very complex and difficult case.”

The indictment said Lewis committed the offense “after substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person.”

A phone message seeking comment from attorney William Guarnieri, who represented Lewis in his 2005 drug case, was not immediately returned.

Authorities previously said gasoline was used to start the fire. It blackened the interior, popped out windows and created a flaming nighttime silhouette that led to nonstop calls to 911 from neighbors.

A heart-wrenching funeral, with mourners slumping in grief over white caskets, drew 4,000 people to a convention center.

Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said the mother of one of the victims, Medeia Carter, apparently knew Lewis.

Carter, 33, died in the fire along with four of her five children. She rented the federally subsidized house, which gave federal prosecutors jurisdiction, said U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards.

Carter and the eight children were found on the second floor of the 2½-story, 99-year-old home, about 3 miles from downtown. All died of smoke inhalation.

Lewis has been in state prison since June 2005 on unrelated drug and weapons charges.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Date: 9/24/2008 8:06 PM

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) _ A Paraguayan court convicted an architect of negligence Wednesday and sentenced him to two years in prison for faulty construction of a supermarket where 420 people died in a fire.

The three-judge panel that convicted Bernardo Ismachowiez, 53, found that he was responsible for defective design and construction that placed lives at risk. Prosecutors said there were not enough emergency exits.

Ismachowiez’s lawyer, Adolfo Ferreiro, promised to seek his client’s immediate release, saying he has already spent two years under house arrest.

More than 2,000 people were in the Ycua Bolanos supermarket in downtown Asuncion on Aug. 1, 2004, when the fire began in the bakery. The blaze quickly filled the building with thick smoke, and most of the victims died of asphyxiation.

More than 150 relatives of the fire’s victims protested outside the courthouse Wednesday, accusing the judges of corruption and calling them “scoundrels.”

“Even though the conviction is historic because it’s the first time a builder will go to prison for negligence, it’s unfortunate he received so few years,” said the leader of a victims’ association, Liz Torres.

The store’s owners and a security guard were previously given prison terms for manslaughter and endangerment on accusations they blocked the exit to keep shoppers from looting during the chaos.

But a court overturned their convictions this month, citing “serious defects” in the trial. Prosecutors are appealing.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.