Family: 2-year-old found dead in Petersburg house fire

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - According to the family, a two year old boy is one of four victims in a devastating house fire in Petersburg.

A family spokesperson told NBC12 the victims are Pauline Wilkins, her daughter Vicki Ansar, Ansar's daughter Tanique "Missy" Chavis and her two year old son, Deldari Chavis.

All four were found dead in their home in the 700 block of Harding Street just after 3:30 a.m. Saturday. Petersburg Police said they are not calling this a homicide, but told NBC12 that officers are treating this investigation as if it were one.

Now, a great grandmother and three generations after her are wiped out after an early morning fire rips through their home.  As news spread, a large crowd quickly gathered, their cries could be heard throughout the street.  Each person our crews spoke to identified themselves as family or close friends.

"They was a good loving family," says Lilian Phelps.

Phelps says she's known the oldest victim, Pauline Wilkins, for two decades. Loved ones say she was a nurse.

"She's a church going woman, loved her kids and all her grandkids," says Tracey Whitten, another relative.

Police say when firefighters got to the house they could see flames, but it wasn't until firefighters got into the home that they found the four bodies.  Petersburg Police say it's too early to release more information.

"Petersburg police and as well as fire are investigating this as if it were a homicide because they want to make certain that they gather the evidence appropriately," says Esther Hyatt, the Petersburg Police spokesperson.

During the investigation, one man standing in the crowd was put in handcuffs. "That was a separate incident and I don't have that information," Hyatt told news reporters.

Loved ones want answers, but right now they are trying to deal with this devastating loss on Easter weekend.

"We was in church together Sunday and I told her we was going to go back to church this coming Sunday," says Phelps as she broke down crying.

Petersburg police say if anybody in the community knows anything that could help with the investigation, call Crime Solvers at 861-1212.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, police say the bodies were badly burned.

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