'We've just had so much tragedy'

A year after granddaughter slain, woman's trailer burns

A year after granddaughter slain, woman's trailer burns

January 25, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM


Mary Ann King's brother helped her install new carpet.

Soon after, her son Christopher helped lay new tile in her kitchen.

King, who works as a hotel housekeeper, would save some money, she said, and spend it on improvements to her new home. But the new carpet, fancy tile and beds she bought her children for Christmas were destroyed Jan. 17 in a fire at her Hagerstown home.

King was able to save only a few photographs from the shell of her trailer on Lois Street. Three of them are of her granddaughter, Madyson King, who was beaten to death by her father about one year ago, when she was 3 years old.


"We've just had so much tragedy," said Mary Champion, Mary Ann King's mother.

One month ago, the family celebrated its second Christmas without Madyson.

"It was a good Christmas," King said. "It was the first time everything felt OK."

She bought beds for her girls, and a new crib for her 11-month-old grandson, Michael Hull. Michael hadn't slept in the crib more than a few times, she said, before it was destroyed in the fire.

King and her husband, Charles King, lived in the trailer with daughters Christina King, 15, and Jessica Hull, 22; son Christopher King, 19; and grandson Michael. Mary Ann and Charles King, Hull and Michael are living with Champion in a trailer about one block from the one they owned.

Christina and Christopher King are staying with a friend.

Christopher King is having perhaps the hardest time coping with the fire, his mother said. It was a space heater in his room that started the fire, she said.

"He just keeps telling me he is sorry," King said. "And I just tell him over and over that it's not his fault. It could have happened to anyone."

King said the family had five space heaters spread throughout the trailer and had been using them since the beginning of winter. Her furnace was not working, and she had planned to use her income tax refund to pay for the repairs.

She called a repairman two days before the fire, she said.

"He said he was going to call me back, but I never heard back," King said.

There were no smoke detectors in the house, and King said she was planning to buy them after the furnace had been fixed.

She was alone in the house when the fire broke out. She was washing dishes when she saw a neighbor running to her trailer, yelling that there was a fire.

King said she didn't think to save anything from the trailer before she walked outside.

"I was in shock. I was dazed," she said. "I'm just glad my kids weren't in there because I couldn't have helped them. I couldn't do anything."

King said the only things she wanted to save from the home were pictures and her cat. She was able to salvage a few pictures of Madyson and several of her children.

Her 16-year-old cat, Maryland, died in the fire.

King said she did not have any insurance and has no way to replace her possessions and no money to buy a new home or even rent an apartment. King believes it will take her some time to save enough money to afford a place large enough for her family. She said having her children spread out is upsetting.

"I'm trying to get another trailer," she said. "If not, then an apartment or something. I've been looking, but financially (it's not possible)."

King works as a housekeeper at a Hagerstown hotel and said she saved money for a long time to afford the trailer. The family bought the trailer only six months ago.

"I've just worked hard all of my life, and I save a little at a time," she said. "I'm just trying to look ahead because I have my 15-year-old and my 19-year-old to think about."

King said she wanted to write a letter to the firefighters who tried to save her home, especially the firefighter who suffered a minor injury. She said she delivered the letter to the Maugansville Volunteer Fire Co.

"They never get a thank you," she said. "And I was just so grateful for everything they did and what they tried to do."

Champion said she set up a trust for her daughter's family at Bulldog Federal Credit Union. Donations may be made there to the Mary King fund, she said.

She said her neighbors and family have been helping since the fire.

"That first night, they just started bringing over bags of clothes," Champion said. "We're a family that sticks together. That's what we're going to do."

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