Arson kills 12-year-old Lakeland girl

By Robin Jedlicka - bio | email

LAKELAND, GA (WALB) - Investigators believe Molotov cocktails were used to start the fire in the home where six people were staying. Along with a young girl who died, two adults were seriously injured.

The call came in to 911 at 2:13am. Based on evidence found at the scene, this fire is being considered an arson and a homicide.

The fire started near the front of the house at 807 Davis Avenue in Lakeland, Georgia. Family members were forced to escape through windows near the back of the house. The home owner's 12-year-old niece, LaQuita Bowens, was sleeping on a couch near the front door and died in the fire.

Five adults escaped, though two of them were seriously burned. They've been transported to a burn center in Augusta. At the scene, investigators found traces of home made gasoline bombs, commonly called Molotov cocktails.

Rescue workers were eventually able to reach the little girl, but she was already dead, probably from smoke inhalation. Neighbors are shocked by this fatal attack.

"You know, we ain't never had this kind of stuff happen around here," said Jeffrey Gloster. "There's been a lot of things going on over the last couple of months, like the killing three or four months ago. It just makes you wonder how can these things happen in this little community here."

"It's just a tragedy you know, because I've known Anthony all my life. He and his mom, we mostly grew up together. I can't think why someone would do something like this here."

Investigators discovered traces of the home made gas bombs at the scene.

"Some gas and probably some flammable substance had been used. I still have to take some evidence to the crime lab," said Paul DiCharia, chief investigator.

The insurance commissioner's office says police are looking for possibly two suspects. "Arson's one charge. The fact that we had a death makes it a homicide," said DiCharia.

All suspicious materials are being sent to the state crime lab for testing. Police say the culprits will face charges of arson and homicide.

Police are investigating two men who supposedly had a recent argument with the West family. The family provided them with those names and police are now trying to locate those men.