The baby sitter who died along with five children in a March 23 fire in a Southeast Washington foster home had been charged with kidnaping and shooting a 22-year-old Job Corps student in Atlanta last fall, according to officials in the Fulton County district attorney's office.
Ellis Raymond Meeks, 52, was being sought on fugitive warrants after he was indicted Nov. 5, 1985, for allegedly kidnaping a Job Corps student and shooting her with a pistol, according to Bill Fincher, an assistant Fulton County district attorney.
Meeks had been teaching math at the Job Corps center in Atlanta since mid-1984, according to center director William Barnes.
The student survived the shooting, Barnes said, who said Meeks fled the area after the incident. "We dismissed him from the program for failure to report to work," Barnes said.
Meeks had taught math in D.C. public schools before his 1971 conviction for manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of a District man.
He moved back to his home state of Georgia in the late 1970s after completing his prison term, relatives in Atlanta said.
His estranged wife, Jewell Meeks of Atlanta, said her husband's relatives told her recently that he returned to Washington after the Atlanta shooting.
The D.C. medical examiner's office found that Meeks was drunk at the time of the fire.
According to an aunt, Meeks had had a drinking problem for several years. At the time of the Atlanta shooting he was on probation for a drunk driving arrest that had occurred in that city on Jan. 13, 1985. He pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge on June 6, 1985, was fined $300 and placed on six months' probation, according to records in Fulton County State Court.
Meeks died in the home of Frances P. Walker, a D.C. foster care mother with four wards of the city in her care. A sixth fire victim, 2-year-old Eric Walker, was a former foster child adopted by Walker in January.
Walker has said she was out of the District when the fire occurred. City officials said they were not notified of her trip as required.
Meeks did not have city approval to care for the children, but Walker told foster care officials after the fire that Meeks was a longtime family friend who had cared for the children in the past.
A spokesman for the city said Meeks was attempting to be rehired by D.C. schools at the time of the fire.
Meeks' brother told the funeral home handling his brother's arrangements that his brother lived in Walker's home, but his aunt said Meeks also had an apartment in District.
Audrey Rowe, D.C. commissioner of social services, said of Meeks' fugitive warrants, "Mr. Meeks was an unauthorized caretaker. His involvement in the matter is being investigated by police."
D.C. police and fire authorities are continuing to investigate the circumstances behind the fatal fire. The cause of the fire still has not been determined, although fire officials initially blamed combustible materials near the furnace.