Teacher and 4 kids die in ‘suspicious’ house fire

FERGUSON, MO – Tracy Panus of St. Louis County Police has reported that the fatal house fire that claimed the lives of a teacher and her four children on Monday is considered to be “suspicious” due to evidence located on the property implying criminal activity. Further information has not yet been disclosed. Investigations into the incident are ongoing, and Regional Bomb and Arson detectives are assisting.

The fire, which started at about 4:30 a.m. in a residential property in Ferguson, MO, resulted in the deaths of Bernadine “Birdie” Pruessner, a former Missouri Teacher of the Year and Community College professor, and her four children, 2-year-old Millie Spader, 5-year-old Jackson Spader, and 9-year-old twins Ellie and Ivy Pruessner, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Three dogs also perished in the incident, whilst a number of rabbits, chickens and cats managed to survive.

Neighbors, who called 911, reportedly tried to kick the front door of the property, but the smoke from the fire was too heavy.

Pruessner’s father, Cordell Beache, spent Sunday evening with his daughter and grandchildren and detailed his daughter’s dedication to educating young minds. She was an assistant professor at Lewis & Clark Community College, on track to receive her doctorate in early childhood education.

A colleague described Bernadine Pruessne as “extremely innovative” and said she was passionate about increasing access to education for students who would not usually have the opportunity. Pruessner received the Missouri Teacher of the Year Award from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence in 2013.