An 11-year-old girl became the sole survivor of a deadly blaze set by her mentally ill dad, jumping from a second-floor window to escape the flames, according to reports.
The child, identified only as Lulu, suffered only minor injuries. She then ran to her neighbors for help.
Her father, Salvatore Ragusa, who suffers from schizophrenia, is believed to have killed the girl’s mother and two younger siblings before setting the Wallingford home on fire, according to reports.
Ragusa, 48, killed himself. Authorities later found Lulu’s mother, Lana Stewart, her 7-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister dead inside, according to the Seattle Times.
The door of the home had been barricaded.
The family dog, Rosie, was also found dead.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Stewart had died from several sharp-force injuries, while her two children died from smoke-related injuries, according to Fox 13 Seattle. All three of their deaths have been ruled homicides.
The police have not revealed the relationship between Ragusa and the family, but neighbors referred to him and Stewart as a couple who lived together, according to the Seattle Times.
Stewart’s sister said Ragusa suffered from schizophrenia and caused his family to endure “lies, manipulation, uncertainty, and forced isolation. Ragusa completed a court-ordered mental health program 19 months ago, according to KIRO 7.
“Yeah, family means everything to me. And, yeah. We need to be kind to one another,” Ragusa said during a February 2022 appearance in mental health court, the outlet reported.
Three years ago, Ragusa also set fire to another home Stewart had been living in, according to KIRO 7. When Seattle Police arrived to the home, Ragusa was standing on the roof with a rope around his neck and was threatening to jump, according to the report.
Stewart’s relatives said the mother-of-three tried to keep the family together despite Ragusa’s mental illness. Prior to his health problems, he was reportedly a loving father, KIRO 7 reported.
Lulu’s aunt, Adrea Stewart-Sloniker, started a GoFundMe page for her niece, whom she called “brave.” So far it has raised more than $61,000.
“Lulu has always been known as a talkative & loving girl who always put her family first. As she got older and became more aware of her situation, she often took on a protective but nurturing role. Therefore I’m not all surprised she jumped out a window with a 16 foot drop to help others survive. She thought she was going back to save her brother & sister after calling for help,” Stewart-Sloniker wrote on the fundraiser.
The funds will go toward the preteen’s recovery, as well as her education, her aunt said.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.