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Man Charged In 2003 Philadelphia Arson That Killed 5, Including 3-Month-Old Baby

By Rahel Solomon and Kim Glovas

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia Police have charged a Philadelphia man with five counts of arson, murder and related offenses for a deadly fire in the Olney section of the city in 2003.

Captain James Clark of the Homicide Unit announced the charges against 32-year-old Abdu Rivera during a press conference Tuesday.

Authorities say Rivera and the intended target 23-year-old John Santiago were involved in a physical altercation the evening before the fire.

"This is over a bar fight and pride," said Clark during Tuesday's press conference."Santiago got into a fight with the suspect and a couple of his friends. He was an excellent boxer, a very skilled boxer, he actually beat 2 or 3 of them up and because of their pride being hurt, they found out where he lived and came to the house and set the house on fire."

Santiago died in the fire. Among the others killed were his 17-year-old girlfriend Clarissa Davila, their three-month-old baby Jacqueline Santiago, his brother 17-year-old Alex Santiago, and their mother 41-year-old Francesca Dejesus.

It happened at about 3:44 a.m. November 18th when the family was likely asleep inside their home on 100 block of Widener Street.

"I could hear the mother screaming, calling for her sons," said neighbor Victoria Wongus who was one of the first to call police, adding memories of that night still haunt her. "Every time you look at that house, you remember that night. You remember that night."

Anarelis Davila, the sister of victim Clarissa Davila, who now lives in Florida, spoke to Eyewitness News by phone Tuesday and said in part:

"I thank everyone for helping with the case, it is a happy day but also a sad day, this has been a tragedy that has left a hole in my heart that can never be filled."

Captain Clark credited two homicide detectives, John Verrecchio and Thomas Gaul, for re-opening the case in 2014 and obtaining the witness statements that led to Rivera's arrest.

Police arrested Rivera Monday evening on Phillip and Ontario Streets, just one block away from the location of the bar fight that police say sparked the fire.

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