Hundreds pay respects to family killed in fire

One visitor said she wanted to pray for both families.

YOUNGSTOWN — Child-crafted paper hearts, letters and drawings served as a backdrop for six gleaming white coffins.

A few of the hearts and letters, penned by little boys and girls, contained misspellings but the sentiment was sincere.

“I am so sorry because you died in the fire. I’m so sad that you are in hevin,” Tarina.

“I wish you was still here at North Elementary and we are sorry you dide in the fire,” Limar.

To Jeannine from Bryant: “I’m sorry that your house got on fire and you got killed and I hope that you is in heaven. Sweet dreams.”

A relentless cold rain fell Friday as hundreds entered L.E. Black, Phillips and Holden Funeral Home on McGuffey Road to pay their last respects to Carol Crawford, 46, her daughter Jennifer R. Crawford, 23, and Jennifer’s four children, Ranaisha, 8, Jeannine, 5, Aleisha, 3, and Brandon, 2.

Large color photos of Jennifer and her children were placed on easels near the coffins. Flowers from family, friends and others filled the room.

The Crawfords all perished in an arson at their Stewart Avenue home at 5:30 a.m. Jan. 23. A funeral was to be held at 10 a.m. today at New Bethel Baptist Church on Hillman Street.

Michael A. Davis, 18, is charged with setting the fire that killed the two women and four children.

“It’s so sad, I never saw anything like this,” Sterling McPherson of Youngstown said, instinctively removing his hat as he prepared to pay his respects. “So, so sad.”

“I cried hard when I found out,” Lady Bell said as she held her 9-month-old boy near the visitor sign-in books.

“I knew them for years, watched the children grow.”

“Those babies didn’t have a chance,” Tanya Lott of Youngstown said, glancing at the white coffins, two of them only 41⁄2 feet long.

“I knew Jennifer, she worked with my brother at McDonald’s.”

Her friend Lillian Smith of Youngstown didn’t know the Crawfords but said it’s such a sad situation and she wanted to pray for survivors of both families — the Crawfords and the Davises.

“The boy, his family, they’re suffering, too.”

As with most who attended calling hours, Smith and Lott read the eldest Crawford girl’s classmates’ paper hearts and letters.

“Some of the letters touch your heart,” Smith said.

“Some say ‘hope you come back to school’ — that shows they don’t understand,” Lott said.

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