4-year-old girl dies of injuries from fire allegedly set by dad
By KIM JANSSEN AND MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporters December 31, 2012 3:58PM
Updated: February 2, 2013 6:20AM
A four-year-old girl whose father allegedly set her on fire died Monday evening.
Nariyah Beller died just after 5 p.m., two days after fire swept through a Lawndale home. Her mother, Taniya Johnson, died Saturday from injuries sustained in the fire, and her father, Nathaniel Beller, died Sunday. Authorities suspect that Beller used an accelerant to quickly spread the blaze. The couple’s 9-year-old son, Naciere, survived but was in “very critical” condition Monday night at Stroger Hospital with 35 percent of his body covered in burns. Nariyah suffered burns to 100 percent of her body.
Nathaniel Beller, 29, had been banned by order of a juvenile court judge from visiting his children without the supervision of a social worker after he was accused of abusing them in September. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took custody of the children after the allegations and later allowed them to live with a family member.
On Saturday, Johnson, of the 4500 block of West Harrison, and the children were visiting Beller and other relatives in the first-floor unit in a home in the 4200 block of West 21st Place, where the fire started.
Taniya Johnson, 33, died of burns and stab wounds, and her death was ruled a homicide, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office concluded.
Johnson had sought an order of protection against Nathaniel Beller, who had been convicted of domestic battery twice since 2007.
At a news conference Monday morning, Nathaniel Beller’s mother, Willie Beller, 52, said her son was innocent and pinned blame for the fire on the children’s mother. “My son came running through — he was on fire, and he said that ‘she set me on fire,’ ” Willie Beller told TV news crews. “My grandson was running behind him and the flames that was flying off him was hitting my grandson.”
Willie Beller also stated that her son suffered from bipolar disorder.
Police think Nathaniel Beller started the blaze, possibly after dousing Johnson and their two children with an accelerant.
Beller was awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault of two police officers at the time of his death Sunday. He was Tasered by officers after he’d threatened them outside a convenience store on April 4, according to court papers.