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A 22-year-old man was charged Thursday with second degree arson following a house fire Tuesday on Rochester's northeast side. The body of Winnie Butler, 51, was found in the burned-out apartment house.
Butler's grandson, Donkish Lesane, entered a not guilty plea Thursday morning during an appearance in Rochester City Court.
The criminal complaint accuses Lesane with intentionally starting a fire around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the bedroom of a ground floor apartment at 294 Fernwood Avenue.
Police said Lesane was in the apartment with four children under the age of six when the fire started. Lesane got those children out safely and called 911.
According to the District Attorney's Office, based on preliminary information, Butler was dead before the fire.
"When he was taken into custody there was what appeared to be blood stains on his clothing. That's being sent to the lab for analysis and that will become part of the case," said Assistant District Attorney Brian Green.
Green said additional charges may be filed against Lesane, as the Medical Examiner's Office is currently performing an autopsy on Butler. Those results are expected late Friday.
"Obviously, we'd like to know exactly what the manner and cause of death were. That's not us to decide. Obviously, we wait for the Medical Examiner's Office to make that decision then we move forward based on Dr. (Caroline) Dignan's information," Green said.
Butler was babysitting her four young grandchildren at the time of the fire. Those kids are Lesane's cousins.
Lesane's mother said the fire and subsequent charges have divided the family.
"What my son did, I know was an accident, I know it was an accident. Him and my mom, they used to argue a lot, you know what I'm saying. I just wish he would have walked away or called us, you know, or something. I don't want anybody to think he's a bad person because he's not. He good people," said Lakisha Butler, Lesane's mother.
The District Attorney's Office requested bail set at $250,000, but City Court Judge Melchor Castro ordered Lesane held without bail.
Lesane is due back in court on Monday.
- See more at: http://rochester.twcnews.com/content/news/751821/grandson-charged-with-starting-fernwood-avenue-fire--could-face-more-charges/#sthash.rzPZxHVq.dpuf