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Firefighters Find Baby's Body In Washing Machine

Fire Officials Claim Fire Intentionally Set

NBC4-TV, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., January 4, 2005

LOS ANGELES -- Murder charges are expected to be filed against a woman whose infant son's body was found in a washing machine after firefighters doused what they say was an intentionally set fire, authorities said Tuesday.

Latunga Starks, 32, was taken into custody last night, according to the Sheriff's Department Web site.

Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Dennis Shirey identified the mother and her nearly 3-month-old son, Michael Kelvin Thompson.

The fire in the one-story house at 417 W. 109th St. was reported about 8:45 p.m. yesterday. It was knocked down about 15 minutes later, said Jim Wells of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

An autopsy is pending to determine the cause of the child's death.

"It's a very tragic loss," LAFD Capt. Rex Vilaubi said outside the LAPD's Parker Center headquarters. "This fire was intentionally set."

Firefighters found the body in a washing machine in a back bedroom of the house, Vilaubi said.

Shirey, who is with the LAPD's Juvenile Division Abused Child Unit, said the mother was "unemotional" while talking to detectives.

"She was very passive, very unemotional," Shirey said. "She didn't appear to be remorseful."

The motive for the crime was not immediately known.

Four adults escaped the fire without injury, Wells said. Damage was estimated at $30,000.

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