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Family of woman pulled from Providence fire demands justice

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1758488″]

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Lucy Feliciano first rented a room at 110 Bowdoin St. in December, her family said, after having trouble finding an affordable apartment.

Two weeks later, the 49-year-old woman was dead. Her body was pulled from the rubble of a destructive fire in Olneyville that burned the building to the ground and destroyed two adjacent homes.

Her devastated family is demanding the landlord be held responsible for her death, and asking why city officials did not immediately condemn the building after an inspection last week revealed numerous code violations.

Feliciano was identified Wednesday as the person whose remains were found at 110 Bowdoin St. two days after the fire, but the Medical Examiner has not determined her cause of death.

“Lucy was a very beautiful soul, she was very happy,” her niece Stephanie Rubio said. “She didn’t deserve to die this way.”

At least two dozen relatives gathered at the site of the fire to place candles in the snow and honor the mother of nine Wednesday night. They brought signs plastered with her photos, and decorated with red lip prints, in honor of her signature lip color.

The signs also listed some of the code violations found in the house by a city inspector three days before the fire, including the lack of heat and hot water. The inspector issued an “intent to condemn” the property after declaring the house “a mess,” filled with debris, dubious wiring, space heaters and propane torches that occupants were using to keep warm.

The building burned down in the early morning of Jan. 6, before the inspection report was filed.

“They should’ve just closed it, simple,” said Yahaira Lavoy, Feliciano’s niece. “He had the authority to close it down.”

Victor Morente, a spokesperson for the city, said while the inspector found numerous violations in the house, “he did not observe any conditions presenting an imminent danger of fire or collapse to warrant immediate evacuation of the building.”

Morente said the landlord, Dexter Jackson, was walked through the condemnation process that day.

“Property owners are entitled to due process,” Morente wrote in an email. “Typically they are given a 24-72 hour window to address violations. As always, the city takes these matters very seriously and will continue to address them if and when they arise.”

Feliciano’s family also believes Jackson should be held responsible for failing to fix the problems. They objected to an assertion Jackson made on Jan. 1, when firefighters visited the property and wrote in a report that “he complained that the tenants are drug addicts who don’t pay their rent, causing him to be unable to pay for the necessary work needed on the property,”

“She never used drugs,” Lavoy said of Feliciano. “She just moved there.” The family said Feliciano was renting a room in the same unit where Jackson lived.

“It’s not fair,” Lavoy added. “We lost someone.”

“He has to pay for this,” Rubio said. “This is negligence. This should be negligent homicide.”

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said fire investigators will need to determine the cause of the fire before deciding if anyone is criminally responsible.

In an interview with Eyewitness News on Tuesday, Jackson brushed off his code violations as unrelated to the fire, and denied some of the issues detailed in the inspector’s report.

Target 12 learned that Jackson’s property at 110 Bowdoin St. had previously been ordered to be condemned in 2015, after being deemed “unfit for continued occupancy.”

Another property he owned at 708 Atwells Avenue was also condemned by the city, and later caught fire.

“We want change,” said Jesus Lavoy, one of Feliciano’s nephews. He said the city should be cracking down on problem landlords with repeated violations and condemnation notices.

“This could happen again to another family,” Lavoy said. “That’s why we want justice.”