Girl, 8, killed in house fire in Clinton

On Saturday, Kennedy Pearson planted flowers and rode her bike.
On Saturday, Kennedy Pearson planted flowers and rode her bike. (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 22, 2010

Kennedy Pearson, a cheerful second-grader, spent the first day of spring planting flowers with her mom, riding her bike with her longtime friend Jaquan and playing outside until about 9:30 p.m. Two hours later, she was dead.

A fire broke out in her family's home in Clinton about 11:15 p.m. Saturday, and Kennedy, 8, died in the smoky blaze, fire officials said. The cause of the fire was under investigation, but it appeared to be accidental, they said.

Kennedy lived with her parents, Kim and Kevin Pearson, who bought the brick split-level house on a tree-lined street off Brandywine Road about 5 1/2 years ago. Kim Pearson was injured in the fire.

Friends and neighbors in the quiet community said they were stunned by Kennedy's death. "She was just out here playing," said Jackie Johnson, who lives two doors down from the Pearsons, recalling how Kennedy spent the last day of her life.

Tia Blake said that her 7-year-old son, Jaquan, was best friends with Kennedy and that the pair spent most of Saturday together. "They planted flowers till dark, and they were going to finish today," she said Sunday.

Cynthia Summers, who has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years, said she found it hard to believe that Kennedy was dead. "She was just at my house yesterday. I gave her some candy. She was just the sweetest little girl," Summers said.

Kevin Pearson had been out Saturday evening and received an urgent call after the fire to return home, said his brother William Murphy, who said he had been designated to speak on the family's behalf. "He came home to find everything already in disarray," said Murphy, who met a cleanup crew at the house Sunday.

At Kennedy's school, New Chapel Christian Academy in Temple Hills, an official with its affiliated church said the congregation had been told the news but did not wish to comment. "There's been a death in the family," a congregant said.

Kim Pearson was home with her daughter and went outside to get help from neighbors after she discovered the fire Saturday night. She was taken by helicopter to a hospital, where she was being treated for burns and smoke inhalation. Her injuries were serious but not life-threatening, officials said.

About 30 firefighters responded to the fire, which took about 15 minutes to extinguish. The mop-up continued until about 3 a.m. Sunday, neighbors said. Damage was estimated at $20,000, officials said.

The home did not appear to have a working smoke alarm, said Prince George's County fire spokesman Mark Brady.

On Sunday, yellow tape surrounded the property, and the smell of smoke hung in the air. Several windows had been broken as firefighters tried to put out the blaze.

Neighbors placed a vase of roses on the front steps of the Pearson house, along with stuffed animals and a note addressed to the family. Also on the steps were cuttings of one of spring's earliest blooming shrubs: forsythia.

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