Cutler, IL (KSDK) - The man accused of setting fire to a home and killing four children goes before a judge for the first time Monday. Meanwhile on Sunday, a small southern Illinois community gathered to support the surviving family members and each other in their grief.
The fire happened in Percy, Illinois. The friends say the Owen family had just moved there from nearby Cutler where they had lived for several years.
Sunday, more than 200 adults and children gathered in the same park where the four siblings who perished often played - Ethan, Kailey, Brandon and Landon Owen ages 12 to twin 5 year olds.
Police say 33 year old Derrick Twardoski set fire to the Owen family home. Investigators have yet to release any possible motive, but in the small town of Cutler most people also know the man who is now an accused killer.
The Mayor of Cutler, Rick Hepp says he heard Twardoski making vague threats at a bar Hepp owns just hours before the fire.
"I never would have dreamed the guy had it in him to harm anybody," said Hepp at the outdoor prayer service for the Owen children.
"I sit back and think about it and think what could have been done. But even the investigators say there's nothing," says Hepp who told the crowd the family will need the community's help for a long time to come.
Sunday they tried to do what they can for now for a husband and wife who have lost most of their possessions and four of their five children.
"Everybody kept asking, 'What can we do?'" said family friend Star Howie. "And the only thing we could think of was prayer and donations."
"With the ages of the kids every kid here knows them and plays with those kids," said Hepp who spoke before a crowd that included several children with tears in their eyes.
"It's going to take a group healing and it's going to be a long road," he said.