Investigators say an apartment house fire that killed a 10-year-old girl in Des Moines over the weekend was caused by a neighbor who failed to properly extinguish a cigarette. The girl, Czu Toffoi, died Sunday from injuries she suffered in the fire. Her grandparents, 65-year-old Sieh Toffoi and 66-year-old Annie Toffoi, both remain hospitalized in critical condition.
Des Moines Police Sergeant Vince Valdez says the man who lived below the Toffois, 51-year-old Ronald Murchison, suffers from a variety of psychological issues and chemical dependency. Valdez says it appears Murchison had been drinking and fell asleep with a lit cigarette, which ignited the fire.
Police have discussed the case with Polk County Attorney John Sarcone and have determined that no charges will be filed against Murchison. "There are no criminal offenses that have been committed," Valdez said. "The evidence, so far, just points to a tragic accident." The fire was reported at 9:45 p.m. Saturday at 1043 Martin Luther King Junior Parkway, just northwest of downtown Des Moines.
Valdez says police have contacted the Iowa Department of Human Services to determine if Murchison can be placed in a long-term supervised care facility. Meanwhile, a fund to benefit the Toffoi family has been established at the Community Choice Credit Union in Des Moines. "The parents (of Czu) are from Liberia," Valdez said. "They are not here…the little girl was staying with her grandparents, who were her legal guardians. It’s a very tragic situation."