The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

December 11, 2008

Father puts together pieces of tragedy

By Melissa Dunson

NEVADA, Mo. — As Kadessa Shadden, 13, raced down the long, gravel driveway on foot, past the rows of darkened trees, the flames leaping from her Nevada-area home lighted the way.

She reached the highway with little brother Braxton, 9, in tow. She had pulled him from the burning house only moments before. But her two younger sisters, Amanda, 11, and Coleen, 5, were still in the house, huddled together in the bathtub. Kadessa had gone in two more times to look for them, but the smoke was too thick. She would later tell investigators that she could hear their screams inside.

Kadessa was looking for help.

The voice of Ronnie Shadden, the children’s father, cracked with emotion for just a moment Thursday afternoon as he recounted the part about the bathtub. Shadden, an Arma, Kan., resident, had put together, from Kadessa’s narrative and Vernon County sheriff reports, the pieces of the fire early Wednesday morning that destroyed Cheryl and Darren Dennison’s home, and killed Amanda and Coleen.

Shadden said that when firefighting crews finally reached the house, they found Amanda holding Coleen in the bathtub. Shadden said Amanda’s body took the brunt of the fire, preserving Coleen’s body.

“She took the pain for her,” Shadden said.

Cause undetermined

Sheriff Ron Peckman said a state fire investigator is looking at ruling the cause of the fire as undetermined, but he said it was possible that the fireplace was partly to blame. The fireplace was serving as the sole source of heat for the house on U.S. Highway 54 near County Road 1700 the night of the fire.

Peckman said the children’s mother, Cheryl Dennison, left for work at the 3M Co. plant in Nevada about 10:40 p.m. Tuesday.

“She had stoked up the fire then,” Peckman said.

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