Man burned down house, killing ex and her 10-year-old daughter: prosecutors

Reginald Brown was angry with Leashia Ford because he believed she had taken his wallet and cellphone and made a purchase using one of his debt or credit cards. So he filled a bleach bottle with gasoline and set the fire to her home, in the 8600 block of South Hermitage Avenue, prosecutors said.

SHARE Man burned down house, killing ex and her 10-year-old daughter: prosecutors
Firefighters work to put out a blaze early Feb. 28 at a bungalow in the 8600 block of South Hermitage Avenue.

Firefighters work to put out a blaze early Feb. 28 at a bungalow in the 8600 block of South Hermitage Avenue. Reginald Brown, 64, faces murder and arson charges in connection with an intentionally set fire, which left Leashia Ford, 34, and her 10-year-old daughter Porche Stinson Ford dead of smoke inhalation.

Chicago Fire Department

A 64-year-old man set fire to his ex-girlfriend’s Gresham home, killing her and her 10-year-old daughter last month, Cook County prosecutors said Thursday.

Reginald Brown was apparently angry with Leashia Ford because he believed she had taken his wallet and cellphone and made a purchase using one of his debt or credit cards.

So he filled a bleach bottle with gasoline and set the fire to the home, in the 8600 block of South Hermitage Avenue, in the early morning hours of Feb. 28, prosecutors said.

“The fire engulfed the home in flames in minutes,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.

Ford, 34, and her daughter, Porche Stinson Ford, died as a result of smoke inhalation and the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled their deaths homicides by arson.

Because of Brown’s actions, “two people were killed, including a 10-year-old girl who does not get to grow up,” Murphy said.

The day before the deadly fire, Brown and Ford were arguing at her house and multiple people allegedly heard Brown threaten to burn down the house if his wallet and phone were not returned.

Reginald Brown arrest photo

Reginald Brown

Chicago police

Brown left but repeated the threat to Ford in a phone call, which Ford allowed others to listen to via her phone’s speaker, Murphy said.

About 4 a.m. the following morning, nearby surveillance cameras recorded a person walking in the direction of the Ford’s home, carrying a weighed down white bag.

A separate Ring doorbell camera recorded Brown pacing in the alley with the white bag before taking something out of it, Murphy said. Brown then walked out of view before the “orange glow” from the fire can be seen on the recording coming from the home’s back porch, Murphy said.

Four others were injured in the fire. One of the injured victims, who also lived at Ford’s home, and Brown’s roommate identified Brown on the surveillance videos, Murphy said.

The roommate also said he overheard Brown saying to himself “they should be asleep by now” in his bedroom the night before the fire, Murphy said.

That evening, the roommate also noticed and moved a white Aldi shopping bag with a bleach bottle inside in his and Brown’s kitchen, Murphy said. Brown later came looking for it and allegedly told his roommate it was filled with gasoline.

Hours later, Brown called the roommate from an unknown phone number to ask if anyone had come by the house looking for him, Murphy said.

Concerned, the roommate drove to the Ford’s block and saw several firetrucks. When he went back home, he noticed the bleach bottle was missing from the kitchen, Murphy said.

The roommate got a text message later that morning from a number he didn’t recognize but believed it was Brown who wrote that he “didn’t do anything,” and that the roommate “shouldn’t say he did,” Murphy said.

Brown called his roommate again that afternoon to ask again if anyone was looking for him and “randomly” said the fire could have started from something inside, like a heater, even though the roommate had not mentioned the fire, Murphy said.

Brown had been free on $5,000 bond for five pending burglary cases when he allegedly set the fire.

In addition to his extensive history of burglary and theft arrests, Brown is also a registered sex offender due to his 1975 conviction for rape, Murphy said.

The father of eight children had not been working recently because of a disability, an assistant public defender told Judge Charles Beach Thursday.

Beach revoked Brown’s bail in the pending burglary cases and ordered him held without bail on first-degree murder and arson charges.

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