CHICAGO -- Bond was denied for a man accused of setting a fire that killed three young girls and their neighbor.
51-year-old Reginald Hester appeared in court Wednesday facing four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of arson.
The fire raced across a South Side apartment complex on August 23rd and killed three sisters: 3-month-old Melanie Watson, 4-year-old Madison Watson and 7-year-old Shaniya Staples along with their neighbor 56-year-old Kirk Johnson.
The families of the victims declined to comment after the court hearing.
Hester is a 1982 graduate of Von Steuben High School.
He has a lengthy rap sheet, including five felony arrests and five misdemeanor arrests for weapons, drugs and domestic violence.
He went by the nickname “Church” and was known for selling loose cigarettes in the neighborhood.
In court, prosecutors laid out a timeline of events that began shortly after midnight on the day of the fire.
Latoya Terry was walking home and bumped into Hester, who propositioned her.
“The defendant asked this witness to preform sexual acts on him in exchange for $10,” said assistant state’s attorney Becky Walters.
She took him back to her place, but sent him right to the back porch.
“She would then go into her apartment to get condoms,” Walters said. “After receiving the $10, the witness entered her apartment through the back door and did not return. Leaving the defendant to bang on the door, but the witness did not reopen the rear door to her apartment.”
“He began to punch and kick at the door,” Terry said. “I went in my room and ignored it, because I’m like eventually he’ll get the picture and leave. Never did I think he was intending on setting anything on fire.”
On that back porch were cardboard boxes, an old couch, a charcoal grill and lighter fluid. Spurned by the woman, he allegedly sought revenge through setting the fire.
“He subsequently admitted in a videotaped statement to starting the fire on the rear porch area and on the interior of the building,” Walters said.
In court, a judge denied bail for Hester. He’ll stay locked up through his trial.
His next court date is set for October 3rd.