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Remains of 2 children killed in controversial 1985 Philadelphia bombing by police returned to family, brother says

MOVE bombing victims’ remains uncovered
Families search for closure 36 years after MOVE bombing 07:05

The remains of two children killed in the 1985 bombing by police of a Philadelphia home used as the headquarters of a Black radical group have been returned to their brother, the man said Wednesday.

The remains of Katricia and Zanetta Dotson will be cremated and taken to North Carolina to be buried, Lionell Dotson told reporters outside the Philadelphia medical examiner's office.

"For the city to give me this is a momentous occasion," Dotson, who was 8 when his sisters died, told WCAU-TV. Katricia was 14 and Zanetta was 12. "It's not about me; it's about them. Finally giving them a resting place permanently – I can do this for them."

The city said officials were meeting with next of kin but wouldn't provide details "out of respect for the families."

MOVE members, led by founder John Africa, practiced a lifestyle that shunned modern conveniences, preached equal rights for animals and rejected government authority. They took the last name Africa.

In this May, 1985 photo, scores of row houses burn in a fire in the west Philadelphia neighborhood. Police dropped a bomb on the militant group MOVE's home on May 13, 1985 in an attempt to arrest members, leading to the burning of scores of homes in the neighborhood AP

The group clashed with police and neighbors, and police seeking to oust members used a helicopter to drop a bomb on the house on May 13, 1985. Five children and six adults inside died, and the resulting fire destroyed more than 60 row houses.

A 1986 commission report called the decision to bomb an occupied row house "unconscionable." MOVE survivors were awarded a $1.5 million judgment in a 1996 lawsuit.

The city's health commissioner resigned in May last year after officials said partial remains from the bombing had been cremated in 2017. The city later said, however, that the remains had not been destroyed and had been found at the medical examiner's office.

Last month, a long-awaited report was released on the injustice relating to the bombing, CBS Philadelphia reported.

But the 257-page report failed to answer the key questions that prompted the probe last year: Who put the box of remains in a storage room at the medical examiner's office prior to its discovery in 2017? Also unclear, why did the employee that was instructed to cremate the remains four years ago under city health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley defy the order to do so?

"I've been very sincerely sorry that it happened," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "Again, a lot of the mishandling happened back in the '80s when the tragedy occurred. We'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

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