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BY Francis Akhalbey, 9:10am February 22, 2024,

Missouri house fire that resulted in death of professor and her 4 children ruled murder-suicide

The house fire that killed Bernadine Pruessner and her four children was ruled as a murder-suicide -- Photo via St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Authorities in Missouri said a house fire that killed a college professor and her four children was a murder-suicide. The fatal incident was initially deemed to be suspicious because evidence of criminal activity was found at the scene, authorities previously stated.

According to PEOPLE, the St. Louis County Police Department in a statement said that a preliminary investigation into the Monday fire determined Bernadine Pruessner “intentionally set a mattress on fire as that was the point of origin for the fire.”

“A note was also left stating Bernadine’s intentions to take her life and the lives of her children,” the statement added.

Pruessner died alongside her four children: Ellie and Ivy Pruessner, both 9, as well as Millie Spader, 2, and Jackson Spader, 6. Authorities also said three dogs died in the fire while chickens and rabbits that were on the property survived.

A neighbor, who noticed fire emanating from the home that morning, called 911 before going to the scene with another neighbor, St. Louis Post-Disptach reported. “The smoke was so bad. I tried to kick the front door,” the neighbor, identified as Jerry McClure, said. “We just couldn’t wake them up.”

Pruessner’s father, Cordell Beache, also said the last time they heard from his daughter was on Sunday night, adding that he even spent time with Pruessner and his grandkids that day. Beache said he and his daughter attended a soccer game that her 9-year-old twins played before they went to Culver’s for dinner.

“She was an amazing person,” Beache said. “She was in early childhood education, and she did wonders with her children, who were very bright.”

Pruessner was an assistant professor in the child development department at Lewis & Clark Community College in Illinois, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. She was also set to earn her doctorate in early childhood education.

Nic Jones, who is Pruessner’s colleague, described the deceased mother as an “extremely innovative” person who had a passion for her profession. Jones also said Pruessner was “at the forefront here at Lewis and Clark in providing access and opportunities to students who would not normally have the chance to study here. She was a wonderful woman.”

The fathers of the deceased children also released a joint statement in the wake of the fatal incident, KSDK reported.

“What I would want everyone to know about my two wonderful children is they are the greatest gift that a father could ever ask for. Jackson was the most incredible older brother—kind, intuitive and gentle. He loved his sisters, being outside, sports (and) art, and he was always so in tune with the needs of others. Millie was a funny, charismatic, sweet and kind little sister who brightened every moment of every day for all of us,” Jackson and Millie’s father, Jared Spader, said in the statement.

“They were the two most beautiful souls that a father could ask for, and they were a gift to our lives in every way,” the statement added.

“As dads, right now we have to focus on honoring the four beautiful lives, and we plan to do that together. Our thanks go out to the community, people we know and many we have never even met, who have shown us incredible amounts of support. We will continue to need it.”

Pruessner’s former attorney, Nathan Cohen, also released a statement on behalf of the deceased woman’s family. Cohen, who described Pruessner as a “wonderful mother and a brilliant educator”, stated that the deceased woman “got to an awful place” as a result of an “ongoing litigation” involving her and the fathers of her children.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 22, 2024


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