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Man Suspected of Lighting Fatal Fire That Injured 2 Children Dies

By  Alex Parker  and Emily Morris | December 30, 2012 6:02pm | Updated on December 31, 2012 9:27am

 The building that burned on the 4200 block of West 21st Place. A 33-year-old woman was killed in the blaze.
The building that burned on the 4200 block of West 21st Place. A 33-year-old woman was killed in the blaze.
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DNAinfo/Geoff Ziezulewicz

CHICAGO — The man police suspect set a fire that killed a 33-year-old woman and critically injured her two small children has died from injuries he sustained in the blaze.

Nathaniel Beller, 29, died about noon Sunday of his injuries, Stroger Hospital spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said. Two children injured in the fire, ages 4 and 9, remain in critical condition, Kollias said.

The fire was contained to the first floor of a two-story apartment building in the 4200 block of West 21st Place, fire officials said Saturday.

Beller suffered burns to 90 percent of his body, fire officials said. A 4-year-old girl was in critical condition with burns to 100 percent of her body and a 9-year-old boy suffered burns on 35 percent of his body. Officials Saturday said their chances of survival were slim.

The fire also claimed the life of Taniya Johnson, 33, of the 4500 block of West Harrison Street, the Cook County medical examiner's office said. She was pronounced dead at 7:40 a.m. Saturday. The relationship between Johnson and Beller was not clear, but neighbors said they appeared to be a couple.

Officials said they were investigating the incident as a homicide Saturday.

"The preliminary indication [is arson] based on the investigation so far," Officer Daniel O'Brien, a police spokesman, said Saturday. Police said "the male used an accelerant and set the fire."

Most of the fire was in a bedroom, special operation Battalion Chief James Purl said. Fire officials said several rescues were made quickly.

Kenneth Jordan, whose sister, daughter and grandson lived upstairs, told DNAinfo.com Chicago "the house is unliveable," though his relatives were all uninjured.

Neighbor Walter Payne said an elderly woman lived in the apartment and her son, who was dating a a woman with two small children, had mental issues. Payne said he was lying in bed watching television when the fire broke out.

Payne said he saw flames and then a woman lying in the front yard.

"They laid the woman right there in the grass. She was gone," he said.

He said he saw the elderly woman and her son sitting outside the house after the fire. The son was naked, Payne said, as his clothes appeared to have been burned off.

“His body was burnt just about all over,” Payne said.

Payne said the elderly woman brought her son home from a mental institution a few months ago — after he allegedly filled a bathub with gasoline.

Crews responded to the fire at 4:39 a.m. Saturday, Purl said, and it was out by 5:40 a.m.

Six people were hospitalized and taken to Mount Sinai and Stroger hospitals. Two of the victims, an 84-year-old and a 21-year-old, were treated for smoke inhalation.