Looking for answers 25 years later - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Looking for answers 25 years later

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CARBONDALE -- Even a new coat of paint, and new siding can't hide the pain, death, and destruction that hit the  Pyramid Apartments on Carbondale's Rawlings Street, December 6th, 1992.

What investigators immediately called an "arson fire" killed 5 international students and now, 25 years later, one of the coldest of Carbondale cold cases still nags investigator Paul Echols, like a bad dream that never goes away.

"There's a leading theory of what happened, but again, without the evidence to prove it, no arrest can take place," said Echols, a retired Carbondale investigator.

25 years later, at a memorial ceremony, Carla Coppi, who watched smoldering building, said she can never erase the horrible sight of the charred building, and the five souls lost that day.

"The images, the sights, the smells, the sounds of the immediacy after the fire and then everything that occurred for the following two weeks will be with me for the rest of my life," Coppi said. Coppi was Director of International Students in 1992. 

With fire blocking the exits, tenants in the Pyramid Apartment Complex found only one way out. Jumping from the third floor windows to the pavement below.

"Some unfortunately got trapped and jumped. Those jumping on the south side, unfortunately, there was a concrete pad," Echols said.

Images like those, leave lingering questions as to who would, who could, set such a fire.

"It's hard to understand why someone would want to do that," Brad Cole said. Cole was Student Body President when the fire broke out and recalled the tight-knit mentality of the campus following the fire.

Those who witnessed the Pyramid fire said, 25 years later, their sense of loss feels just as powerful as it did the day of the fire. Especially knowing, that even now, police have no suspects and fewer leads.

"Every day that goes by, there's fewer connections with folks that were here then," Cole said.

Without evidence, investigators fear, this case might continue to languish without any hope of justice done for the five lives lost.

"In order to close an investigation, you need to make an arrest," Echols said.

Carbondale Police, to this day, offer a $6,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

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