Man pleads guilty of killing 4 children in Randolph Co. house fire


by staff

Posted on August 6, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 7 at 8:15 AM

Percy, Illinois fire

View larger map

CHESTER, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois man has pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder for setting a house fire that killed four children.

Derrick Twardoski accepted a plea deal Wednesday in a Randolph County court. The 34-year-old faces up to 60 years in prison.

He previously pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the May 2013 deaths in Percy, a village about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis. The fire killed siblings ages 12 and 9 and 5-year-old twins.

Prosecutors haven't disclosed a motive.

The county state's attorney says the children's family supported the deal because it avoided a trial.

Twardoski will remain at the county jail until sentencing in October.


See original story below:

( -- Authorities filed charges against a suspect after a house fire left four children dead in Randolph County, Ill. early Friday morning.

Derrick J. Twardoski faces four counts of first-degree murder, according to a statement from the state’s attorney. Twardoski is being held without bond at the Randolph County Jail.

Twardoski is accused of deliberately setting fire to the home of the Owen family, located in the 800 block of West Almond in Percy, Ill.

Authorities said firefighters arrived to the scene and found the victims dead inside the home.

The victims were identified as Ethan Owen, 12, Kailey Owen, 9, and Brandon and Landon Owen, who were 5-year-old twins.

An autopsy to determine their cause of death was planned for Saturday, though officials believe their deaths were caused by the fire.

Officials say three adults and a 6-year-old child were able to escape the blaze. Randolph County Coroner Randy Dudenbostel said the 6-year-old was taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.

The blaze badly damaged the two-story home, which is registered under the name Matthew Owen.

Percy, a village in a rural area that is home to about 1,000 people, is about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis.

Contributions to the victims' family can be made at First National Bank, located at 304 W. Main Street in Ava, Ill. Church services for the victims will be held in Steelville and Percy on Sunday.

Twardoski's first court appearance has been scheduled for Monday.