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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)
Judge Rips Lie Tester On Boy's Story Of Fire
Chicago, Jan. 16 - Family Court Judge Alfred J. Cilella Tuesday assailed the lie detector operator who reportedly obtained a 13-year-old boy's confession to touching off Chicago's worst school fire.
The jurist also implied criticism of the police investigation of the boy in connection with the Our Lady of the Angels fire.
Meanwhile, State's Atty. Daniel P. Ward said a delinquency petition would be filed, calling for the boy's appearance at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Family Court. Attorneys retained by the boy's parents said they would surrender him at that time.
Reid Is Target
Chief target of Judge Cilella's ire was John E. Reid, polygraph expert to whom the youth allegedly confessed setting the fire that claimed the lives of 92 children and three nuns Dec. 1, 1958.
“Reid's conduct was most unusual,” said the judge. “I don't know what information he had pertaining to the boy but I think that information would be regarded as confidential.”
The jurist said his first knowledge of the boy's purported confession came Friday afternoon through a phone call from Reid. Reid started to tell him details of the confession, according to Cilella, but Cilella cut him off.
Demands Proper Action
“I suggested to Reid that he take steps with the proper authorities,” Cilella said. “My function would be to receive a delinquency petition filed by any citizen or law enforcing agency.”
The judge also complained that Cicero police and other investigators made no move before late Tuesday to take proper steps “to bring this thing to a head.”
Cilella added that, according to the new state criminal code effective Jan. 1, the court may not suggest, require nor accept the evidence of lie detector tests.
The question of lie detector tests was not the only legal problem posed by the case. The new code may also bar the boy's prosecution on a felony charge.
Ward said the code forbids the conviction of any person for any offense unless he had observed his 13th birthday at the time the offense was committed.
The boy under suspicion, now an eighth grader at a Cicero school, was a 10-year-old fifth grader when he attended Our Lady of the Angels School.
Ward announced the decision to file a delinquency petition after a conference with Reid, Assistant Corporation Counsel John Thornton, the city fire attorney; representatives of the police and fire department arson squads and Cicero police officials.
The state's attorney would not disclose the substance of the petition.
Possible Action
Cilella said his duty will be to determine whether the boy is guilty of delinquency under the petition.
If he finds the boy guilty, he may place him on probation in custody of his parents with a recommendation for psychiatric care or he may refer him to the Illinois Youth Commission.
If the boy is referred to the youth commission it may, after a period of observation, assign him to one of the state's 10 forestry camps, to the Illinois Training School for Boys near St. Charles or to the Sheridan Reformatory.
Walter P. Dahl, an attorney engaged by the boy's stepfather and mother, said he would surrender the youngster for the hearing and that John J. Cogan, veteran trial lawyer and former assistant state's attorney, would conduct the defense.
The attorneys said the boy has insisted, since he took the lie test, that he never set the school fire. They said he told his parents that if he made any such admission, he did so only because he had been tricked into it by the lie-detector operator.
The parents complained, according to counsel, that the boy had been kept under questioning by Reid for seven hours, from 1:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. last Friday.
The lawyers said the mother had agreed for the boy to take the test, with the understanding that he would be asked just five questions about fires in Cicero. They said she sought the test voluntarily to determine whether the boy had anything to do with starting the Cicero fires.
The stepfather said Reid deleted a section of the boy's statement in response to questions about a fire in a Cicero bowling alley, according to the attorneys. They said the parent charged Reid held out that section after it was demonstrated to him that the boy could not have had a hand in starting the fire.