Medical Examiner Confirms Identities Of Women Killed In Marianna House FIre

Ruth Pete, Cynthia Pete, Gertrude Pete, and Sarah Johnson died in a New Year's Day house fire in Marianna | Source:
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News Release: Marianna Police Department

On 01/03/2014 the Marianna Police Department received confirmation from the District Fourteen Medical Examiner’s Office on the identities of the four deceased.

The deceased are Gertrude Smith Pete, born 09/09/1945; Ruth Elise Pete, born 12/29/1918; Sarah Lee Johnson, born 07/11/1928; Cynthia Verdell Pete, born 08/24/1967.

Associated Press News Release

MARIANNA, Fla. (AP) -- A man says his sister died trying to rescue three other relatives trapped in a New Year's Day house fire in the Florida Panhandle.

Robert Pete tells The News Herald ( ) that his sister Cynthia Pete had escaped the fire but went back inside in an attempt to save three other women. Pete identified them as his mother Gertrude Pete and two other relatives, Sarah Johnson and Ruth Pete, who also was known as Elis Pete.

Marianna police are investigating the fire. Few details about the blaze have been released.

Another one of Cynthia Pete's siblings says six children and three other adults escaped the blaze that engulfed the home where the family had lived for about 15 years. Neighbors say the four victims were known as community pillars.


Information from: The (Panama City, Fla.) News Herald,

By: Andy Alcock
January 2, 2014

Marianna, Fla. -- The new year began tragically for a Jackson County family.

Four women died in a house fire new year's day while six children managed to escape.

The fire damaged home on Jackson Street in Marianna is now blocked off with yellow tape.

The roof is now caved in from damage.

And bicycles on the front porch show children lived here.

"There should've been something like three generations in there. I knew each and every one of them," said John Harvey.

Harvey's barber shop is two doors down from the home.

He says the two houses on either side of the home are abandoned.

And because the fire broke out about 7:45 in the morning New Year's Day, he says all the businesses in the area, including his own, were closed.

According to a relative, Gertrude Pete, Sarah Johnson, Elise Pete and Cynthia Pete all died in the fire.

However 6 children all under 8 years old, managed to escape.

"I'm probably sure there was nobody on the street but the people that was in the house," said Harvey. "Thank God the kids was able to get out," he said.

According to Marianna's Fire Chief, smoke detectors in the home did go off.

The children managed to get out, but the women did not.

"It was a bad scene and it's bad for the grieving family that's left behind," said Harvey.

Harvey says one of the children would periodically stop by and bring him lemons and oranges from trees in their yard.

Now, he's the only one on his side of the block left.

"The kids that'll be around there, they play all the time, just good outgoing people," Harvey said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

It's suspected an overloaded extension cord may have started it.

MARIANNA, Fla. (AP) -- Four people have died in a house fire in the Florida Panhandle.

Authorities say six people escaped the fire Wednesday morning in Marianna, but four other people inside the home did not.

James Rhynes tells WJHG-TV ( that the fire killed his grandmother, great-grandmother, an aunt and another female relative.

Marianna Fire Chief Nakeya Lovett says smoke detectors woke up six children in the house.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Lovett says an overloaded extension cord may have started it.

Information from: WJHG-TV,

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