Firefighters may never know what caused the February house fire that killed three children and injured their younger brother.
Investigators have ruled out electrical and natural gas problems, a space heater and the use of accelerants. Somehow, a bed caught fire in a bedroom of the house on James Street. The bed was in a different room from where firefighters found the children.
Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said investigators cant rule out the possibility that the children started the fire accidentally.
They cant prove thats what happened either, he said Thursday.
Investigators did find cigarette lighters in the house, but didnt find one -- or remnants of one -- on the burned bed.
We may never know how it was started, Riggins said.
Firefighters stationed on Pio Nono Avenue were turning onto James Street when Colethia Williams car shot around them and pulled into the front yard.
A crew from the station at the intersection of Mercer University Drive and Bloomfield Road, near Macon Mall, had arrived first at the early morning fire.
Following protocol, they had just started searching to see if anyone was in the burning house.
Fire Lt. Seaborn Rewis heard Williams yelling, My kids are in there. My kids are in there.
Three of her children -- Daija, 7, Jamarrian, 9, and Nykhiya, 10 -- died in the fire. Her youngest, 3-year-old Jlon, was taken to an Augusta hospital for smoke inhalation and released days later.
When interviewed by police Feb. 24, the day of the fire, Williams said shed gone to the Seven Store on Napier Avenue at Mumford Road. She told The Telegraph shed had trouble sleeping and needed sinus medication.
Williams told The Telegraph she was gone only about 15 minutes and that she got a call while she was at the store from someone saying her house was burning. But during an interview later with police, Williams admitted she had lied and said she was at her boyfriends house at the time, according to an arrest warrant released Thursday.
Police say she told them her boyfriends name was Michael Jackson, but officers discovered his name actually is Michael Green, according to the warrant.
Members of the U.S. Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested Williams on Wednesday on three counts of murder, four counts of second-degree cruelty to children and one count of making felony false statements and writings.
State investigators ruled the fire an accident Feb. 26.
In Bibb County Magistrate Court on Thursday, Williams shook her head left and right when a judge asked if she understood the charges against her.
Judge Jane Reeves explained her rights and gave her the opportunity to have a commitment hearing -- a time when police can testify about why they charged a person with a crime.
Speaking softly, Williams said she was trying to hire an attorney. Reeves set a hearing date for March 29.
The judge said only a Superior Court judge can set a bond on a murder charge.
Williams asked, I cant get out?
Fighting the fire
When firefighters arrived at Williams small, white house about a block off Log Cabin Drive, Rewis could see a glow coming from the back of the house.
Smoke was coming out the front door.
A boy from down the street, who Rewis estimates was 11 or 12, came to the door of the fire truck.
He said, Im the one that called in the fire, said Rewis, a firefighter for more than 20 years.
For Matthew Freiburg, a rookie on the crew, the fire was his first since joining the department in August.
Freiburg went in the front door with a hose. Rewis was behind him.
Soon, five firefighters from Fire Station #8 were fighting the fire as they waited for help to arrive.
From the time firefighters started searching, it was a matter of seconds before they found the four children in a huddle between their mothers bed and a window.
Freiburg heard firefighters from another station call out that theyd found the children and started heading their way.
He carried 10-year-old Nykhiya outside and, along with firefighter Hasuwn Jenkins, tried to resuscitate her.
Each of the four children had two firefighters working to resuscitate them or otherwise provide medical care before ambulances arrived.
Jenkins said he doesnt know how long he and Freiburg performed CPR on the unconscious girl.
I guess time freezes when youre just in the moment. You dont think about how long youre doing it, he said. You just do it as long as it takes to get the job done.
Jenkins rode in the ambulance with Nykhiya, continuing to try to bring her back to life.
The fact that Jlon survived provides some consolation, Jenkins said.
To get one, he said, that means a lot to us. ... We did all we could.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.