For an Algiers family, hope continues to rise from the ashes 33 years after a house fire killed their two young sons and left 3-year-old Ramona Brown missing.
Searching for Ramona Brown
An Eyewitness Investigative Series
Investigators never determined what caused the fire, but wood-frame construction and high winds from an approaching cold front sent flames quickly roaring through the Brown family home at 2631 Memorial Park Drive.
Thanks to their boy-crazy teenage daughter Pamela Nickerson, who was on the phone at 3 a.m. when the fire started, 9 of the family members escaped the blaze.
But the fire ultimately quieted the cries of two toddlers, Kevin, 4, and Aubrey Jr., 2, who were trapped in the living room. The Orleans Parish Coroner recovered their bodies the morning after the fire.
3-year-old Ramona was last seen sleeping in the girls’ bedroom, the area of the home where Pamela told police she first saw flames.
After an exhaustive search spanning a week’s time, investigators found no trace of Ramona at the scene of the fire.
Only one of the family members, Simona Brown, who was 6 years old at the time of the fire, said she
remembers seeing Ramona alive in the street after the blaze.
Her memory of what happened next was a surprise to an investigator who admits in an interview that he never really considered the possibility that Ramona survived because of the intensity of the fire and the damage it caused.
A grieving mother, devastated by the events of that morning, never relayed the story to police.
The gusty winds and intense flames also destroyed the house next door, where a family and their friends, in town for Mardi Gras, slept.
The multimedia investigative series reveals new details about the fire and dives into the investigation conducted by a joint task force of the New Orleans Police Department and the New Orleans Fire Department.