Husband, father of fire victim seeking justice in family's deaths
LAKE DREAMLAND, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Debris and rubble is all that's left of Wayne Riley's home, boarded shut on Shanks Lane, after a fire Tuesday evening destroyed his apartment and killed his wife, Archimeda Riley, and her daughter, Savannah Cooper.
"She was always selfless, always going the extra mile," Riley said of his wife. "She wrote a book called 'Clockwork Stars.' We were going to get it published next month."
Riley said he and his wife had spent several years without a home, living in and out of hotels, before finally settling down in this apartment. He said his wife was very proud of finally being able to have something that she had worked for and earned on her own.
"Everything was looking up," he said. "We worked so hard and finally got an apartment. We got this apartment."
It was in their apartment where his wife, known by neighbors and friends as Miss Archie, died. Neighbors said Riley spent her last moments trying to save her children from the fire. Fire officials said Riley's daughter, Savannah Cooper, also died from the fire. Her family said one of her sons is still in the hospital in critical condition.
According to fire officials, the fire was deliberately set by Danesha Peden, who now faces on charge of arson, two charges of murder and one charge of first-degree assault. Officials have not confirmed what led to Peden starting the fire, but several neighbors said they heard Peden fighting with one of the building's residents earlier Tuesday evening before leaving. One of the residents, Idallas Moore, said she saw Peden return and set the fire.
"That's what hurts the most. You looked me in my face," she said. "I asked if you were okay and you just lit the toilet paper with me standing right there next to you and then you ran out and shut the door to leave me and everyone else in this building to die."
Moore said after Peden left the building, she started yelling at the other residents to get out. Riley called Moore a "hero," a title she said she is not worthy of.
"I'm not a hero. Trust me. I'm not a hero. I did what I had to do," she said. "Ms. Archie, she touched my heart and her smile was so big and pretty. She needed it. She needed justice."
For Riley's family, they're struggling to understand why they are now paying the price for a stranger's actions.
"What you did to this family is something that they probably won't ever come back from," Terry Hathaway, Wayne Riley's brother, said. "Ever."
"What did I do to you? I don't even know you. What did I do to deserve this? What did my family do to you? What did my wife do to you?" Riley said. "I want to hate this woman so much with every fiber of my being. I want to hate this woman but she wouldn't want me to do that."
According to Louisville Metro Arson investigators, the fire is still under investigation.
A family member has set up a GoFundMe account to help support the Riley's funeral expenses.
One of Riley's neighbors, Christian Underwood, told WHAS11 her church, Bates Memorial Baptist Church, is looking into helping out the Rileys and all the other families that have been affected by the fire. She said people can contact the church at 502-636-0523.