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An 11-year-old girl is the sole survivor of a Seattle house fire that killed her mother, two siblings and their father, who police say barricaded the family inside and set the blaze.
Lulu Ragusa escaped by jumping out a window and running for help, her aunt wrote on GoFundMe.
The girl has “always put her family first” and “took on a protective but nurturing role” with her siblings, wrote Adrea Sloniker. “Therefore I’m not all surprised she jumped out a window with a 16 foot drop to help others survive. She thought she was going back to save her brother & sister after calling for help.”
But her siblings, 4-month-old Valentina Ragusa and Sebastiano “Seby” Ragusa, 7, died alongside their mother, Lana Stewart, 40, and Rosie, the family’s dog, inside their home in the Wallingford neighborhood.
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Lana Stewart and two of her children, 4-month-old Valentina Ragusa and Sebastiano Ragusa, 7, died in a Seattle house fire Sept. 2 that was set by the children’s father, Salvatore Ragusa. (Courtesy of Adrea Sloniker via FOX13 )
Stewart died of “multiple sharp force injuries” while her children died of smoke inhalation, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office told Fox News Digital. The three deaths were ruled homicide.
The children’s father, Salvatore Ragusa, also died of smoke inhalation, but his death was ruled a suicide.
The GoFundMe campaign had raised $41,981 as of Friday afternoon, and the money will go toward paying for Lulu’s recovery and education. She will be adopted by a family member.
Lulu Ragusa, 11, is the sole survivor of a Sept. 2 house fire that killed her two siblings and her mother. She escaped out a window to get help after her father, Salvatore Ragusa, set their Seattle home on fire. (GoFundMe)
Sloniker said her sister and the children endured years of abuse at the hands of their mentally ill dad.
“Over the years of knowing Sal, he went from a loving father to someone no one would have ever imagined,” she wrote in a statement on Facebook. “What began as a slow mental spiral, suddenly went out of control before Sal would consent to receiving professional help again”
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Salvatore, who she wrote suffered from schizophrenia, lived in paranoia, believing he was being spied on and that the family’s phones were wiretapped.
Lana Stewart and two of her children, 4-month-old Valentina Ragusa and Sebastiano Ragusa, 7, died after the children’s father, Salvatore Ragusa, trapped them inside and set the house on fire, according to police. (John Odegard/Seattle Fire Department)
“At times Lana & the kids endured lies, manipulation, uncertainty and forced isolation,” the statement says, adding that Lana often succeeded at calming Salvatore’s delusions but at a heavy emotional cost. Lana knew she had to leave Salvatore but hadn’t yet “gathered the strength,” her sister wrote.
Salvatore was charged in 2019 with setting fire to Lana’s apartment and threatening to kill himself, FOX13 reported.
In one recent family photo, Lana is shown holding her infant in her arms as her older children play in the yard with Rosie.
Lana Stewart and her two youngest children, Valentina and Sebastiano Ragusa, died Sept. 2 in a Seattle house fire set by their father, Salvatore Ragusa. (Courtesy of Adrea Sloniker via FOX13)
“One of her favorite things in life was being a mother,” Sloniker said of her slain sister.
Lulu had a special bond with Sebastiano, who “loved to laugh and be goofy.”
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“His rambunctious little spirit will be missed especially by Lulu as she was the happiest when by his side,” she wrote. “Baby Valentina was a bright light from the very beginning.”
Lulu loved to make her little sister burst into giggles and helped teach her how to crawl, she wrote.
Lana Stewart holds Valentina Ragusa in her arms as Lulu Ragusa, 11, plays with her brother, Sebastiano Ragusa, 7. Stewart and her two youngest children perished in a house fire in Seattle Sept. 2 set by the slain children’s father, Salvatore Ragusa. (Courtesy of Adrea Sloniker via FOX13)
Despite the the family’s loss, Lulu will thrive, her aunt wrote.
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“We want everybody to know that even though this was an extremely tragic situation, Lulu will be able to live her life to her fullest potential,” she wrote.
Rebecca Rosenberg is a veteran journalist and book author with a focus on crime and criminal justice. Email tips to [email protected] and @ReRosenberg.