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Man charged with setting fire that kills six people

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The bodies of six people, four of them children, were discovered Tuesday in the burned out remains of their home, which authorities said was set on fire by the husband of one of the victims.

The suspect, Gerald Wayne Lewis, 35, who had been arrested twice previously for wife abuse, was in the Duval County Jail, charged with six counts of murder, said Asa Higgs, a spokesman with the Duval County Sheriff's Office.

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Killed in the blaze were the suspect's wife, Carolyn Lewis, who had won a pending injunction that ordered her husband to stay away from her; her sister-in-law, Victoria Marsh, 23, and three girls and a boy whose last names were Marsh, Higgs said.

The children were identified as Lakindra, 12; Chris, 5; Jackie, 3, and Danielle, 2, Higgs said. Authorities were unsure of their relationship.

The bodies were taken to the Duval County medical examiner's office for autopsies.

A crime report at the sheriff's office said, 'The fire was started as a result of a petroleum product being poured on the front porch, foyer, living room, stairwell and second floor bedroom.'

Higgs said the suspect and his wife apparently argued Monday and the man set the house on fire, but before it burned down, the suspect rescued his own young son.

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Gerald Lewis was arrested for spouse abuse in 1988 and for battery on a spouse last year while an injunction was in place to protect her from him. He also was arrested for child neglect in 1988, Higgs said.

The fire was reported at 11:35 p.m. Monday by a police officer on routine patrol through the working class neighborhood near the center of town, fire Lt. Lorin Mock said.

When firefighters arrived five minutes later, they found the two- story wood frame house fully aflame.

The bodies were discovered about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday after the blaze was extinguished, Mock said. The house suffered extensive damage.

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