Man Charged In South Side Fire That Killed Three Children | WBEZ
Skip to main content


Man Charged In South Side Fire That Killed Three Children

Updated 5:44 P.M. CT

A South Side man told police he started a fire that killed four people, including three children, after a woman who agreed to perform a sex act took his $10 and left, prosecutors said.

Reginald Hester, 51, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of arson, authorities said. He was ordered held without bond Wednesday.

Prosecutors claim Hester started the Aug. 23 fires outside of an apartment building in the 8100 block of South Essex Avenue. The blaze spread from a rear porch and engulfed the building.

The Cook County medical examiner determined 4-month-old Melanie Watson; 4-year-old Madison Staples; 7-year-old Shaniyah Staples; and 56-year-old Kirk Johnson died from injuries suffered during the fire. Other residents were injured trying to escape the fire, authorities said.

Hester told police he started the fire because he wanted to scare a woman who lived in the building after a disagreement over money and sex, prosecutors said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Becky Walters said Hester gave a recorded confession in police custody.

Hester is scheduled to be back in court Oct. 3.

Max Green reports for the WBEZ news desk. Follow him @maxraphaelgreen.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.