Officials: Children Found in S.C. House Fire Had Throats Slashed Before One of Parents Set Blaze
COLUMBIA, S.C. Aug. 10, 2004 — Three children found dead in the ruins of their burned home had their throats slashed before one of their parents set the fire, authorities said Tuesday.
The father had recently been accused of molesting one of the children.
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York County Sheriff’s Capt. Glenn Williams said officials are awaiting test results and plan to investigate further, but added, “We do believe the person that’s responsible died in the fire.”
The bodies of Denia Meza, 14, Denise Meza, 8, and Jayro Meza, 5, were found in their charred beds after the fire at their Rock Hill home was extinguished early Monday, said Williams.
Autopsies determined that Jose Denis Meza, 39, and Marbely Zeldon Meza, 30, died from smoke inhalation and burns, but the children were dead before the fire was set, Williams said.
The parents’ bodies were found on the floor near the children.
Williams said the fire was set from inside the one-story, three-bedroom home by one of the adults, although investigators did not know which one.
The father was charged last month with two counts of a lewd act on a child involving the 14-year-old daughter and was to appear in court next week.
Meza had been ordered not to live with the rest of the family, officials said. He told officials he was staying in Charlotte, N.C., but his pickup truck was outside the home when firefighters arrived.
Williams said the family is from Nicaragua but had lived for several years in the north-central part of the state near the North Carolina line, where Jose Meza worked for a landscaping company.
Some residents in the middle-class neighborhood said they suspected something had gone awry in the family this summer.
Stephanie Long, 31, a neighbor, said she had recently seen the father driving down the street. He would stop in the road and stare at the house for a while before finally driving away, she said.
Benton Landscaping and Design, where Jose Meza worked, released a statement saying he “portrayed high values and showed compassion and love to both his family and his religion.”
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