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Deaths Of Mother And Daughter In Auburn Gresham House Fire Ruled Homicides Due To Arson

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A fire that killed a mother and her young daughter on Sunday has been ruled an arson, and the deaths have been ruled homicides, officials said on Tuesday.

Ieashia Ford, 34, and her daughter Porche Stinson were among six people pulled from a burning home in the 8600 block of South Hermitage Avenue early Sunday morning. Family said Porche was 10, but the Cook County Medical Examiner's office said she was 15.

They were taken to Little Company of Mary Medical Center in extremely critical condition, and were later pronounced dead.

Four other adult relatives, two men and two women, were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and are expected to recover, according to the Fire Department.

Tuesday afternoon, the Cook County Medical Examiner's office said an autopsy determined Ieashia and Porche died from "inhalation injuries due to inhalation of products of combustion due to house fire due to arson." Both deaths were ruled homicides.

Police would not confirm published reports that detectives learned a man entered the house through the back yard, carrying a white plastic bottle of gasoline, which he spread on a back porch and lit on fire. The man then left the yard the same way he came in, and at least some of his actions reportedly might have been recorded by surveillance cameras.

The victims' family on Sunday had said they didn't believe the fire was an accident. The Illinois State Fire Marshal's office and Chicago Police were brought in Sunday to look for signs of arson.

Meanwhile, as CBS 2's Jemont Terry reported Tuesday night, a growing memorial outside the house where the fire claimed the two lives was an indication of the void left behind.

"They were real close, mother and daughter - they could not be separated," said Mona Ford. "It's not easy, it's not easy."

Mona Ford and her family members could not wrap their minds around what is now the double homicide of her niece and great niece.

"To set a fire, kill people, hurt other people – no!" she said.

Family members said Sunday that they were concerned the fire was intentionally set. Hearing investigators confirmed those worries led police to suspicions about a neighborhood friend of Ieashia Ford's – who family said was upset days before.

"It started over a wallet - a wallet somebody took," Mona Ford said.

The wanted man believed Ford knew something about his missing wallet. He is accused of making threats to other family members too.

"When that man came over here, he was threatening to burn my building down," Mona Ford said.

Family said those threats turned to action, and now police are looking into the suspicion that the man came to the house and set it on fire from an alley – killing the mother and daughter.

"Because he took innocent lives. He hurt other people - and shouldn't no one have to go through that," Mona Ford said.

The man remained on the run Tuesday night, as CPD searched for the suspected arsonist and killer.

"He needs to just turn himself in - turn yourself in and make, you know, it easy on yourself," Mona Ford sad.

And although days have passed, family and friends were still gathering outside the house Tuesday night - just looking and hoping for some closure.

Ieashia leaves behind one other daughter, two sons and a grandchild.

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