The building Basha Smalley and her three daughters lived in was damaged by fire Tuesday. | Mary Mitchell/Sun-Times

Basha Smalley’s troubles grow

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A fire broke out Tuesday night on the third floor of the dilapidated building where a domestic violence victim and her three daughters lived, destroying the woman’s possessions and personal papers.

Just one week ago, I wrote about Basha Smalley’s battles in domestic violence court.

Smalley, who is in the throes of an ugly divorce, was not in in the building at the time of the fire.

“I don’t know what happened. I picked up my check and went to the hotel so my daughters could take a shower and go swimming, and this morning I started getting calls from neighbors that smoke was pouring from the building,” Smalley told me.

A spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department said “faulty wiring” caused the fire.

“This place was in foreclosure and [Smalley] was in the process of moving out. What we determined was the electrical services to the building had been turned off. The meter had been bypassed and inferior wiring had been temporarily installed,” fire spokesman Larry Langford said.


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The building in the 7700 block of South Yates has numerous code violations and is subject to a cease-and-desist order barring any construction work at the site. The gas is shut off. There also are no working toilets or hot water.

Smalley was living in the rundown building because she said she had no place to go. With the assistance of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services, she was in the process of trying to find another apartment when this latest setback occurred.

Although the court has granted Smalley several orders of protection against Burnyss Perry, an ex-convict who served seven years in state prison for mortgage fraud, he has not been convicted of domestic violence in Illinois or of violating the orders of protection.

Smalley occupied the apartment in the six-unit building throughout her husband’s incarceration.

She filed for divorce in 2014 and has been in and out of domestic violence court over her estranged husband’s access to the property.

Smalley recently accused Perry of threatening her with a gun. After a bench trial, Cook County Circuit Judge Neil J. Linehan acquitted him on that charge. Afterward, Smalley’s order of protection was modified to allow Perry to be in the building where his estranged wife lives.

According to a spokesman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, Perry had told the court he was the “maintenance man” for the building and also lived there.

Out of the blue on Wednesday afternoon, Perry emailed me the “Certified Statement of Conviction/Disposition” recorded by the Clerk of the Circuit Court that shows the acquittal.

Meanwhile, despite Smalley’s attempt to bring attention to what she believes are shortcomings in the system that is supposed to protect domestic violence victims, her situation has gone from bad to worse.

“I honestly don’t know how the fire started. I couldn’t tell you. After the building flooded, it could be anything. We’re just standing out here now on the street. Everything I own is in there. My life is in an uproar,” she said.

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