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Stepfather charged in fatal Oakland mobile home fire

Boy, 5, killed in fire at Lake John's Motel

OAKLAND, Fla. – Authorities have arrested a man in the fatal fire at a mobile home complex on first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and arson charges.

Police said on Wednesday Luis Cruz was arrested in the June fire at the Lake John's Motel on West Colonial Drive, which the state fire marshal determined to be arson.

According to police, Cruz and his 2 biological children were able to get out of the residence, assisted by neighboring children. But firefighters found Cruz's stepchildren, a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old in the residence unconscious. Both victims were transported to South Lake Hospital and subsequently to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, where 5-year-old Caleb Eisenberg died on June 23.

Witnesses told police that Cruz had asked neighbors not to call 911 and told firefighters that no one was inside of the residence, according to the report.

"I asked him if there were anymore and he said no," said Isaiah Francis, Cruz's 10-year-old neighbor who helped rescue Cruz's older children.

"He told everybody that there was nobody else in there," said neighbor Stephanie Grimes.

Firefighters later found the two additional children and neighbors tell Local 6 Cruz is their stepfather. The 3-year-old boy remains unconscious and unresponsive at Arnold Palmer, police said.

Neighbors said fire investigators told them they found the 3-year-old and 5-year-old children huddled together inside the house, the older one protecting the younger one.

"They told me when they pulled Caleb and Thomas out of the fire that Caleb had a blanket over Thomas and was laying on top of Thomas trying to protect him," said Grimes, the mother of the other boy who helped rescue 2 of Cruz's children. "Our son is a hero and so is his friend, but the fact that Caleb and Thomas was trapped in a room, the fact that Caleb basically risked his life to try and save his brother's life, that makes Caleb a hero himself."

"It's a sad situation because a lot of people are saying there was time for him to go in there and get the kids," said neighbor Miguel Leboi. "So a lot of people here feel guilty. They feel horrible for the mom because she had to lose her child that day."

Cruz was already in the Polk County Jail for violation of probation, arrested on July 8, according to jail records.


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