‘They were a cute little family’: DeKalb neighbors remember mom, 4 kids killed in fire

The family's neighbors recall seeing the children playing outside just days before the deadly blaze.
Caption
The family's neighbors recall seeing the children playing outside just days before the deadly blaze.

Credit: Sarah Kallis

Credit: Sarah Kallis

The shell of the burned home was still standing, but the air continued to faintly smell like smoke even two days later.

The DeKalb County street filled with similar one-story brick houses was quiet and somber Monday afternoon after a tragic fire killed a mother and her four children there early Saturday. Few people were outside on this cold, rainy day, but next-door neighbor Laura Toney shared what she remembered about the harrowing scene.

“I couldn’t see the place. There was a lot, a lot of smoke,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You could cut the smoke with a knife.”

ExploreWoman, 4 children killed overnight in DeKalb house fire

No one in the house made it out alive. The DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the mother as 27-year-old Quaniece Gregory. Her children were identified as India Gregory, 8, Jacob Seabram, 5, Thomas Reese, 4, and Shirley Reese, 1.

From her backyard on Del Rio Terrace, Toney could see the kids’ toys still scattered around the family’s backyard. The family’s dog also died in the fire, but its body was still outside in a cage Monday.

Five people, including four children, were killed when a fire tore through a DeKalb County home early Saturday.
Caption
Five people, including four children, were killed when a fire tore through a DeKalb County home early Saturday.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Toney said the family had been living there for less than six months. Channel 2 Action News reported that the family was renting the home.

“They were a cute little family,” Toney said. “I’d see the kids out here playing in the yard and playing with the dog.”

DeKalb fire officials arrived at the home, not far from Covington Highway, about 12:40 that morning and discovered the bodies of the woman and children in a front bedroom, according to Capt. Dion Bentley. They do not know what caused the deadly blaze, but investigators believe all five victims died of smoke inhalation.

According to Toney, Gregory’s husband was a truck driver and was on the road when the fire happened.

“That’s the sad thing. You’re out on the road making a way for your family, and from a call you’re told your whole family is dead in a fire,” she said. “It’s horrible. I wouldn’t know what to do.”

The front of the house, where the fire appears to have started, was badly burned. The gaping hole could be seen from the street Monday, roped off by crime scene tape that stretched the length of the house.

Jeffery Berry, who owns a roofing company near the home, was saddened by the news.

“I can see the house from my office,” he said. “When I heard about the fire on the news and I realized that I see the house every day, it was absolutely heartbreaking. Those kids, it was the saddest thing ever.”