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Fire Allegedly Set By Dad Claims Life of 4-Year-Old Girl

By Alex Parker | December 31, 2012 6:26pm | Updated on January 1, 2013 4:05pm
 The building that burned on the 4200 block of W. 21st Place. Three people have died as a result of the fire.
The building that burned on the 4200 block of W. 21st Place. Three people have died as a result of the fire.
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DNAinfo/Geoff Ziezulewicz

CHICAGO — A 4-year-old girl who was badly burned in a fire allegedly set by her father has died, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

Her death was ruled a homicide in an autopsy report Tuesday. She died from burns ignited with accelerant, according to the medical examiner's office.

Neriyah Beller suffered burns to 100 percent of her body in the blaze that also killed her mother, 33-year-old Taniya Johnson, and her father, 29 year-old Nathaniel Beller.

Nathaniel Beller's death was ruled a suicide, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday. He set himself on fire, according to the medical examiner's office.

Police say Nathaniel Beller used an accelerant to start the fire Saturday, which also injured a 9-year-old boy, who suffered burns on 35 percent of his body. Nathaniel Beller died yesterday; Johnson died of her injuries Saturday morning.

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.

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

An autopsy performed on Johnson revealed she died of burns and "multiple sharp force injuries," suggesting she had been stabbed.

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 bathtub 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.