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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958
OLA Fire Period News Articles
(These stories have been reproduced as accurately as possible from the original news reports, including original errors)
90 Die In School Fire (12/1/58)
74 Hurt, Blast Traps Scores (12/1/58)
Tough Chicago Police Weep At The Tragic, Tiny Bundles (12/1/58)
Tom Feared Sight Of Death's Mask (12/1/58)
Margaret Was a Little Girl Who Didn't Like to Be Sick (12/1/58)
Joe Wasn't Hurt, He Saw Only Horror (12/1/58)
Sobbing Nun Tells of Horror In School Fire (12/1/58)
Parish Families Seek Children (12/1/58)
Man, 74, Stricken Helping Children (12/1/58)
F.B.I. Ready to Assist Chicago Fire Inquire (12/1/58)
Panic Grips Classrooms; Confusion Increases Toll (12/1/58)
Everybody was Jumping (12/1/58)
List of Identified Dead In Chicago School Fire (12/1/58)
Fire Gong Tolled A Deadly Message (12/1/58)
Frantic Dad Tells Fire Rescue Role (12/1/58)
85 Youngsters Still Hospitalized; Blaze 3rd Worst In 100 Years (12/2/58)
Smoldering School Ruins Like A Cavern Of Death (12/2/58)
87 Children, 3 Nuns Die in School Fire (12/2/58)
Probers of Fire Ask: Why? (12/2/58)
Schoolboy Smoking Cigaret Might Have Touched Off Fire (12/2/58)
One Family's Story (12/2/58)
Throng Just Waits, Looks (12/2/58)
The Morgue (12/2/58)
School Fire Chicago's Worst in 55 Years (12/2/58)
“I'll Remember It to My Dying Day,” Says Fireman (12/2/58)
Chronology Shows Speed of Disaster (12/2/58)
Girl Recalls Burning Backs Of Classmates (12/2/58)
Chicago Presses Search for Clues to Fire At School (12/2/58)
'I Won't Give Up Hope,' Says Father (12/2/58)
Boy Who Jumped Tells of Tragedy (12/2/58)
Pope John Wires Condolences to Bereaved Kin (12/2/58)
Arson Squad to Probe Fire in School Last Year (12/2/58)
“It's Just Too Much,” Laments Archbishop (12/2/58)
Hospitals Work Around Clock to Relieve Injured (12/2/58)
Other School Tragedies (12/2/58)
Moscow Says School Fire No Accident (12/2/58)
Memories of Horror Rack School Janitor (12/2/58)
How Fireman Feels Carrying Out Victims (12/3/58)
Third Worst In Nation (12/3/58)
Priests Try Vainly To Comfort Bereaved Relatives And Parents (12/3/58)
Struggle to Save Fire Survivors Continues (12/3/58)
Gigantic IFs Jolt Probers Digging Into Fire Mystery (12/3/58)
Fire Leads to School Checkups (12/3/58)
Rites Held for Nuns Killed in School Fire (12/4/58)
10,000 Mourners at Funeral Of Three Nuns Killed in Fire (12/4/58)
Mass Offered for 28 Small Victims of Fire (12/5/58)
Fire Victim's Souls Commended to God (12/5/58)
91st Chicago Victim Of School Fire Dies (12/6/58)
500 Children Face Questioning In School Fire (12/6/58)
Bereaved Families Mourn in Chicago (12/7/58)
9-Year-Old Boy Dies, Raises Chicago School Fire Toll to 92 (12/8/58)
Boy Becomes 92d Victim of Chicago Fire (12/8/58)
School Fire Horror Probed (12/11/58)
Chicago School Afire Long Before 1st Alarm (12/11/58)
Terror, Torment Related by School Fire Victims (12/13/58)
Girl Fire Victim, 9, Wonders Why Cards Have Stopped Coming (12/14/58)
Fire. Thirty-Eight O Eight Iowa...The Alarm Was Desperate, the Tragedy Incredible! (12/15/58)
Nightmare in the News (12/15/58)
Disasters - The Chicago School Fire (12/15/58)
How Safe Are The Schools (12/15/58)
Fire Hazards Found At 2 City Schools
Two Schools To Be Closed As Fire Risks
Texas School Tragedy Of 294 Dead Recalled
$50,000? So What?
Erect Fireproof School Building (11/30/59)
City Cleared As Defendant In School Fire (7/19/60)
New School Open (9/60)
Considered prime suspect in Chicago blaze (1/16/1962)
Boy Admits Fire Fatal To 95 (1/16/62)
Judge Rips Lie Tester On Boy's Story Of Fire (1/16/1966)
Cicero Won't Let Police Talk to Youth (1/16/1962)
Lad Cleared in School Fire (3/13/62)
Memories stay forever - Our Lady of Angels fire survivor (11/83)
'Born fireman' wanted to be part of the action (6/1/2003)
Considered prime suspect in Chicago blaze
CHICAGO (UPI) - The chief investigator of a parochial school fire which took 95 lives three years ago said today a 12-year-old “firebug” is the “best suspect so far” in the tragedy.
The boy had been a fifth grader at the Roman Catholic Our Lady of the Angels School, which was destroyed Dec. 1, 1958, killing 92 children and three nuns. Police said the boy had confessed starting a number of other fires.
His identity was withheld by authorities acting under state law.
Bit it was learned that the boy had been questioned three times before about the school fire. Police said he came from a broken home and lives with his grandmother in suburban Cicero, about eight miles from Our Lady of the Angels School.
Sgt. Drew Brown of the Chicago police bomb and arson squad said Cicero police had given him information about the boy. Brown headed the investigative teams which tried to determine what caused the fire. He has talked to many persons who had been considered possible suspects.
Brown said the Cicero boy is the “best suspect so far.”
Say Boy Confessed
The Chicago Tribune, in a copyrighted story, said the boy had confessed setting the school fire. The Tribune said the confession came during an examination by John E. Reid, a lie detector expert.
The Tribune said information about the confession had been given Judge Alfred J. Cilella of Family Court.
But Cilella told United Press International “I have no knowledge of any boy being arrested in the case.” Cilella said he knew nothing about any confession.
The judge explained that under ordinary circumstances the boy would be brought into his jurisdiction if a petition is filed alleging delinquency. In Illinois, Cilella said, a boy under 17 can be charged with murder, treason, voluntary manslaughter or rape and taken before the Criminal Court as an adult by the state's attorney.
Criminal Action Unlikely
However, the Cook County state's attorney's office said it is unlikely criminal action would be taken in the case. Asst. State's Atty John Stamos said, “I don't believe we would proceed in Criminal Court.”
Cilella said that if the boy is brought before him the charges could be dismissed or the boy could be adjudged delinquent and given probation or committed to the Illinois Youth Commission for confinement.
The boy's fifth grade teacher at Our Lady of the Angels, Pearl Tristano, said a number of the items said to have been included in the boy's account of the fire were at odds with the facts. However, she admitted that her recollection of the incidents preceding the blaze was foggy.
“Loves Fire Sirens”
The boy, who told Cicero police he “loves fire sirens” and “loves to watch fire trucks,” said he received permission to go to the washroom and instead went to the school basement where he dropped lighted matches into a trash container by a stairwell at the school.
The trash containers had been pinpointed as the fire source the day after the blaze which killed 92 children and three nuns.
The Tribune said Cicero police began an investigation of the boy, who was 10 at the time of the Our Lady of the Angels fire, when they received an anonymous letter about a month and a half ago which identified the boy as the arsonist who set fire to an apartment building.
Brown told UPI he was called into the case by Cicero authorities last week.
The Tribune said the boy, now an eighth grader at a west suburban school, has confessed setting at least a dozen fires, the first when he was 5 years old.