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East Lansdowne fire: All 6 bodies removed from wreckage of burned out house

DA says now it is up to the ME to identify, determine cause of death

Scenes from the shooting and fire on the first block of Lewis Avenue in East Lansdowne on Feb. 7, 2024. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)
Scenes from the shooting and fire on the first block of Lewis Avenue in East Lansdowne on Feb. 7, 2024. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)
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EAST LANSDOWNE – Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer reported Friday that had been recovered from the scene of Wednesday’s house fire at 58 Lewis Ave.

“These are charred remains. They are unrecognizable human remains,” said Stollsteimer. “Not only was there an intense fire, but the building collapsed on these folks as they were in there.”

Nakayla Le (Courtesy District Attorney's Office)
Nakayla Le (Courtesy District Attorney’s Office)

Removed from the wreckage were what is presumed to be the bodies of Canh Van Le, 42; Xuong Le, 40; Britni N. McLaughlin, 37; Natalya Le, 17; Nakayla Le, 13; and Xavier Le, 10.

Canh Van Le is believed to have killed his brother, Xuong, the brother’s wife, McLaughlin, and their three children. The brothers’ parents, Houng Le, 74, and Chin Le Le, 72, were not in the house at the time, authorities said.

Xavier Le (Courtesy District Attorney's Office)
Xavier Le (Courtesy District Attorney’s Office)

Stollsteimer said the fire burned so hot that a rifle removed from the home had partially melted. He was unsure if it was registered to Cahn Le at this point.

Crews were working to demolish what remained of the house Friday afternoon as Stollsteimer described Chief Medical Examiner Albert Chu’s next steps: Identifying the remains and determining a cause of death.

He said those examinations will hopefully reveal whether the victims were shot prior to the fire starting. If Cahn Le is positively identified among the bodies, Stollsteimer said the criminal case would be effectively closed at that point, save for some paperwork.

“If he is the individual that … his mother identified as shooting her granddaughter, the case is closed as long as he is one of the deceased,” Stollsteimer said. “At that point, there is no criminal prosecution. We know people died because the fire was caused here. If he also killed them by gunfire, that just adds to the trauma, but it doesn’t change the dynamic.”

Xuong Le (Courtesy District Attorney's Office)
Xuong Le (Courtesy District Attorney’s Office)

Stollsteimer said no motive had been identified and surviving family members did not report any aberrant behavior or any signs leading up to Wednesday’s deadly confrontation.

“He just went haywire,” Stollsteimer said. “She (Le Le) left the home, the grandfather picked her up, and they ran to safety, and they tried to get police here to deal with the situation.”

Huong Le and Chin Le Le have suffered a terrible tragedy, he said. Stollsteimer described them as being numb and in shock.

Britni McLaughlin (Courtesy District Attorney's Office)
Britni McLaughlin (Courtesy District Attorney’s Office)

“They have literally lost everything they had,” Stollsteimer said. “They lost everybody they love and they’ve lost their home.”

The incident began about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, when officers from Lansdowne and East Lansdowne responded to a report an 11-year-old shot inside the house. Upon arriving, they were surprised by gunfire.

A neighbor

“You heard that first shot, then it was a pause,” said Rev. Tracy Mallory, a retired 25-year SEPTA police officer. “Then it was rapid shots, about four to six. Then it was about two more. That is when the police arrived.”

Lansdowne Police Officer David Schiazza, 54, and John Meehan, 44, of East Lansdowne Police, were both struck and dragged to safety by Upper Darby officers using ballistic shields.

Natalya Le (Courtesy District Attorney's Office)
Natalya Le (Courtesy District Attorney’s Office)

Schiazza was struck in a leg and was released Thursday from Penn Presbyterian. Meehan was struck in an arm, requiring lengthy surgery, but was released Friday afternoon.

Lansdowne Police Chief Ken Rutherford and East Lansdowne Chief John Zimath said Friday they were grateful for the outpouring of support their departments had received in the aftermath.

“That’s what we do around here,” said Zimath.

The fire began shortly after the officers were shot. Fire crews were called, but were unable to approach and the entire upper part of the house was engulfed in flames within minutes.

District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Friday that all six bodies had been removed from the scene of a fire Wednesday in East Lansdowne (Alex Rose - Daily Times)
District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer says Friday that all six bodies had been removed from the scene of the Wednesday in East Lansdowne. (Alex Rose — Daily Times)

The conflagration was finally brought under control Wednesday evening after consuming the second and third stories of the home. Stollsteimer said it was impossible to tell where in the house the bodies had been, as the entire structure caved in on itself.

Stollsteimer thanked all those who had offered assistance or words of comfort from neighboring police departments, the East Lansdowne community and Delaware County community as a whole.

Mayor Majovie Bland said that he remembered seeing the young victims walking the streets or out at community events. The community now is hurting, he said.

"We're in pain," Mayor Bland, center, tells reporters Friday (Alex Rose - Daily Times)
“We’re in pain,” East Lansdowne Mayor Majovie Bland tells reporters Friday. (Alex Rose – Daily Times)

“It’s time for us to come together and pool our resources to help our community, and hopefully begin the healing process,” Bland said. “Now that this part of the ordeal is over, we will begin having conversations with the school district to begin to start the healing process.”

The William Penn School District issued a statement Thursday that it would be providing support to students and staff, and that counselors would be available for anyone who felt the need to talk to someone.

Officials there did not have anything to add Friday.

Rev. Dr. Moses Suah-Dennis, pastor of the nearby Faith-Immanuel Lutheran Church where the elder Le family members fled for safety Wednesday, said he has been in contact with the mayor and hopes to have some sort of event memorializing the victims within the next few days.

Daily Times Reporter Pete Bannan contributed to this story

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