Man charged with murder in fatal Kankakee apartment fire

(KANKAKEE) A 61-year-old man has been charged with murder and arson in connection with a fire that left two young boys dead earlier this month in downstate Kankakee.

Alex Sawyer has been charged with two counts of murder and eight counts of aggravated arson for the April 13 fire that left 2-year-old Ju’shaun Watson and 4-year-old Justice Stewart dead and injured eight others, including three firefighters, according to Kankakee Fire Chief Ron Young.

His court information was not immediately known Tuesday night.

Young said investigators believe the motive for setting the fire was revenge, but did not elaborate further in a statement Tuesday.

The boys were airlifted to the hospitals with severe burns following the fire, which started about 1:45 a.m. April 13 in the rear stairwell of a two-story building in the 800 block of West Station Street, Young said.

When firefighters arrived, they saw smoke billowing from the second floor and residents hanging out windows, Young said.

Ju’shaun was pronounced dead at 12:10 p.m. April 17 at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood; and 4-year-old Justice Stewart died at 3:54 p.m. April 15 at Comer Children’s Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

An autopsy for Justice on did not rule on cause and manner of death, with results pending further investigation. Autopsy results for Ju’shaun weren’t immediately available.

In addition to the boys, a 65-year-old woman suffered smoke inhalation; a 25-year-old man burned his hands and jumped out of a window; a 22-year-old woman burned her hands; and three others suffered injuries in the fire. Their conditions were stabilized at hospitals, Young said.

Three firefighters were also treated for injuries they suffered while battling the blaze, Young said.

It took crews about an hour and a half to put out the flames. Twenty-two people were displaced, Young said.