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Family Seeks Answers Years After Deadly Fire

house fire
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

It sounds like something that could be turned into a Hollywood movie script, but for members of the Landers family outside of Boston, it couldn’t be more real. Still, almost half a century later the family hopes for the best ending possible.

Forty-three years after a devastating fire that killed six members of the Wilmington, MA family, the Landers are seeking answers as they hope to prove the deadly blaze was intentionally set. On September 26, 1969, the family’s Clark Street home caught fire, killing 37-year-old mother Nancy Landers along with five of her children. Davey, 13, Billy, 12, Kevin, 9, Lisa, 7, and K.C., 4, all perished in the fire that began at about 3 a.m. that morning.

The fire was ruled electrical in nature, a common classification during that time period. However, rumors flew around town in the weeks following the tragedy that a local man bragged to friends that he had started the fire. He was rumored to have been brought in for questioning at the time, but no charges resulted.

Beginning about one year ago, Janis Jaquith, who married David and Nancy’s oldest child Harry, began an investigation of her own. She interviewed many of the involved parties, including firefighters who worked that day and neighbors. Janis is working with Fire Chief Ed Bradbury and recently retired Police Lt. Chris Neville to try and find more information on the case.

Neville said the man who is seen as a person of interest for telling friends he set the fire was arrested in the years after the fire for serious crimes in Florida and New York, including armed robbery. In addition, Neville said the man, who no longer lives in town, has been seen at the Landers family grave site and the property where the home burnt down on several occasions.

Neville said there is no statute of limitations on murder, which would be the charge if a suspect is arrested in this case. So Janis Jaquith will continue working with Bradbury, Neville and others in town in hopes of finding answers for the Landers family.

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