1 of 3 victims set blaze in deadly Topeka apartment fire

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Topeka Fire Department says an apartment fire that killed three women was intentionally set by one of the victims.

Investigators allege that Janelle Owens, one of three victims who died, set fire to a bed in the living room of apartment number 8. Another person in the apartment with her was able to escape before rescue crews arrived. That person was taken to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Emergency crews first responded to a report of a fire at 8:19 Monday morning at the apartment building at 1318 SW Buchanan Street. It’s in Topeka’s Central Park neighborhood. Early reports indicated there were people trapped inside the building with heavy smoke visible when crews arrived on scene.

Rescue crews searched the building and found the bodies of three people. The victims have now officially been identified as 52-year-old Janelle Owens, 59-year-old Rhonda Gill and 41-year-old Letitia Gill. Family members identified the victims to KSNT News on Monday. Officials say both Rhonda and Letitia took shelter in a back bedroom closet. The mother and daughter lived in the apartment above where the fire was set.

Damage to the building and tenant’s property is estimated at half a million dollars.

This is the second fatal fire in Topeka in just a week. On Monday, August 15, 36-year-old Elizabeth Anne Frost died in a house fire. The cause of that fire is still not known.

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