An Illinois man was charged Friday with six counts of murder and four counts of arson for setting a fire in an apartment complex in Morrison that killed two children and an adult, the Prairie Advocate reported.
Celina Serrano, 13, and her cousin, Shayla Walker, 8, died in the early Monday morning fire at Western Apartments that authorities said stemmed from a drug deal that went sideways. A neighbor Carrie A. Hose, 49, also died in the blaze.
Celina’s mother, Alma Walker, 35, and her sister, Teleah Serrano, 12, were injured. Walker is in critical condition at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, a hospital spokesman said, and Teleah has been released into the care of her grandmother. Nine other occupants of the apartments escaped.
Steven W. Coleman, 40, has now been charged with three counts of murder while committed a “forcible felony” — aggravated arson — and three counts of murder while committing actions he reasonably knew had a “strong probability” of causing death or great harm. He’s also charged with three counts of aggravated arson and a fourth count of arson without the aggravated standard. Coleman, a felon with convictions dating back to 1997, was on parole at the time of the fire.
Whiteside County officials said that Coleman can only be found guilty of one or the other murder charges, and he must be found guilty of aggravated arson in order to be found guilty of murder while committing a “forcible felony.” If he’s found not guilty of aggravated arson, he can still be found guilty of the other three murder charges and the fourth arson charge.
Coleman was paroled last October after being found guilty of stealing cut copper and two internally cooled welding wheels in 2016 and aggravated DUI in 2017, both in Lee County. He was also serving a sentence for criminal damage to property in Whiteside County that was included in the parole.
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[Featured image: Steven Coleman/Whiteside County Jail]