Fire in Lawndale leaves 1 dead & 5 injured, including 2 children - New York News

Suspected arson fire in Lawndale leaves 2 dead & 4 injured

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

A four-year-old girl whose father allegedly set her on fire died Monday evening.

On Saturday Nariyah Beller, her brother Naciere, 9, and their mother, Taniya Johnson, were burned at their Lawndale home. Johnson died Saturday. The children's father is suspected of setting the fire. The father, Nathaniel Beller, died of his burns Sunday.

Nathaniel Beller's mother says her son has been falsely accused.

Willie Beller, 52, says her late son Nathaniel Beller, 29, told her that his girlfriend Taniya Johnson had started the blaze before he too succumbed to injuries he suffered in the fire at her West Side home.

"My son came running through — he was on fire, and he said that ‘she set me on fire,' " Beller told TV news crews at a news conference Monday morning.

"My grandson was running behind him and the flames that was flying off him was hitting my grandson."

But police believe Nathaniel Beller started the inferno, possibly after dousing his girlfriend and their two children with an accelerant.

Court records paint a troubling picture of his prior abuse of the mother of his children. Twice convicted of domestic battery since 2007, he also was the subject of an order of protection sought by Taniya Johnson.

After he was accused of abusing both children in September, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took custody of the children.

A protective order signed by a juvenile court judge banned Beller from visiting his children without the supervision of a social worker — an order he appears to have been flouting when he allegedly started the fire while staying overnight at his mother's home in the 4200 block of West 21st Place early Saturday morning.

It is unclear whether the relative given foster care of the children will face prosecution for apparently allowing Beller unsupervised contact.

Convicted of multiple drug offenses, Beller was awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault of two police officers at the time of his death Sunday.

He was Tasered by officers after he'd threatened them outside a convenience store on April 4, according to court papers.

As other relatives gathered Monday at the Stroger Hospital bedsides of the children, Willie Beller said at the news conference that her son was bipolar.

Nariyah suffered burns to 100 percent of her body, while Naciere suffered burns to 35 percent of his body, officials said he remains in critical condition Monday night.

Their mother succumbed to her injuries Saturday.

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