Arbeiter had lived at 2833 Missouri in a house owned by his in-laws at
DEATH SCENE: Five ohildren were killed last night in a fire at this apartment at 2870A South Jefferson Avenue. They were the children of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Crossno. (Post-Dispatch Photo) 5 Children Dead In Fire In Apartment Over Bar By GARY RONBERG Of the Post-Dispatch Five children burned to death last night in a fire in the second-floor apartment of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Crossno, 2870 A. South Jefferson Avenue. Crossno, 43 years old, and his wife, Marge, 33, operate Tom's Sand Bar tavern, which is below the apartment. The children, who were asleep, has been alone only a few minutes when the fire started. Dead are twin boys, Thomas Lee and Jerry Allen, 5; Christopher Allen, 4; a girl, Kimberly Dawn, 3, and another boy, Gregory Scott, 10 months old. Police speculated that the blaze might have started with a space heater, but the bomb and arson squad is investigating. The fire, which apparently started shortly after 9 p.m., never was out of control and was extinguished within minutes after firemen arrived. A friend of Crossno's, one of about 10 persons in the tavern before the fire, said Mrs. Cross- no had come downstairs shortly after 9 p.m. to relieve her husband. As always, he said, she had locked the apartment. "Tom was just standing at the bar with us, about ready to go upstairs, when all of a sudden his eyes lit up and he bolted out the door. He didn't say a word to anyone. "My back had been to the window, which Tom was facing, and when I turned around I saw smoke coming from someplace. I thought it was a car on fire or something." At that moment about 9:25 p.m. Patrolmen Vernon En-gelbrecht and Donald Komor of the Third District pulled up to the tavern in response to a call. "My partner was driving," Komor said, "and as we pulled up I saw this guy burst out the front door of the tavern. "'Anybody up there?' I asked. " 'Yeah,' he said, 'My kids.' How many?' 'Five.' ' median 80, were caught two hours after their escape. (UPI Komor and Engelbrecht then raced up the only stairs leading to the apartment, w h i c h are outside and in back of the building. "When we got up there smoke was pouring out of a broken window," Komor said. "There were two facing doors to the apartment but both were locked. As we tried to break down the one leading through the kitchen flames started shooting down from the transom above it. "It was an inferno in there, and when we finally broke the door down the smoke almost blew us off the building." ' Crossno, who had tried to borrow a ladder to enter the apartment t h r o u g h the front windows, then raced up the steps. "He wanted to go inside," Komor said, "but there was no way anybody could. It was suicide! He wasn't making any sense and me and my partner had to lead him back down the stairs." Firemen were arriving by then, Komor said. One of them ran to the top of the stairs and immediately was driven back by the heat and smoke. "It was too hot," Komor said. "They had to pour water on (lie thing before anyone could go inside." Throughout the frenzy, both Komor and Engelbrecht said, no sounds came from inside the apartment. Police later speculated that the children might have been overcome by smoke before they died. Komor said that, as each charred body was removed from the living room floor, Crossno watched and gave the children's names. "But, really, they were burned so badly it was hard to be sure,", Komor said. ' . Mrs. Crossno is in City Hospital suffering from shock. Crossno told Third District police that he had no idea -how the blaze might have originated, but that a person with whom he had had a dispute about a year ago had threatened two or three times "to burn me out." ..",: .,"