Charged: Man Indicted In Cleveland's Deadliest Fire

Courtesy: Department of Corrections
Courtesy: Department of Corrections

FIRST ON 19 ACTION NEWS: It was the deadliest fire in Cleveland city history.

In May of 2005, a woman and eight children perished during a birthday sleepover in an arson fire on E. 87th & Superior.

It was quickly determined the fatal fire was fueled by some kind of accelerant but what has been harder to determine is who set the fire. Federal agents joined local investigators as time passed.

Now, more than three years later, a man has been indicted for the mass murder. Federal prosecutors have charged 24-year-old Antun Lewis - he could face the death penalty if convicted.

At a news conference, Acting U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards called it "a long a grueling investigation." He said he couldn't say who the intended arson victim was or why Lewis was trying to kill that person.

The lead city investigator, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba, said authorities didn't know the motive.

"The big question is why and we don't know that," Tomba said after news conference.

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

Officials say Lewis broke into the rented home, doused the living room with gasoline, lit a match and fled.

Most of those who died were members of an extended family of siblings and cousins.

33-year-old Medeia Carter, 15-year-old Devonte Carter, 14-year-old Antwon Jackson, 14-year-old Moses Williams, Jr., 13-year-old Ernest Tate, Jr., 13-year-old Miles Cockfield, 12-year-old Maleeya Williams, 12-year-old Shauntavia Mitchell and 7-year-old Fakih Jones all died of smoke inhalation.

19 Action News has learned Lewis has previous convictions dating back to 2003. He has been incarcerated in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville since June 27th, 2005, on unrelated charges of drug trafficking, failure to comply and having a weapon under disability, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

His release date is Nov. 17th, 2009.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.