Brother: Remains of 2 kids killed in 1985 MOVE bombing returned

MOVE bombing
A protestor holds a sign during a demonstration at 33rd and Spruce streets in April 2021, calling on the University of Pennsylvania to return the remains of children who died in West Philadelphia’s MOVE bombing.

The remains of two children killed in the 1985 bombing by police of a Philadelphia home used as the headquarters of a Black radical group have been returned to their brother, the man said Wednesday.

The remains of Katricia and Zanetta Dotson will be cremated and taken to North Carolina to be buried, Lionell Dotson told reporters outside the Philadelphia medical examiner’s office.

“For the city to give me this is a momentous occasion,” Dotson, who was 8 when his sisters died, told WCAU-TV. Katricia was 14 and Zanetta was 12. “It’s not about me; it’s about them. Finally giving them a resting place permanently – I can do this for them.”

The city said officials were meeting with next of kin but wouldn’t provide details “out of respect for the families.”

MOVE members, led by founder John Africa, practiced a lifestyle that shunned modern conveniences, preached equal rights for animals and rejected government authority. They took the last name Africa.

Vincent Leaphart, also known as John Africa, founder of MOVE, is hugged by supporters after Leaphart was acquitted by a federal jury on weapons and conspiracy charges in Philadelphia Wednesday, July 22, 1981.AP Photo/Bill Ingraham

The group clashed with police and neighbors, and police seeking to oust members used a helicopter to drop a bomb on the house on May 13, 1985. Five children and six adults inside died, and the resulting fire destroyed more than 60 row houses.

A 1986 commission report called the decision to bomb an occupied row house “unconscionable.” MOVE survivors were awarded a $1.5 million judgment in a 1996 lawsuit.

The city’s health commissioner resigned in May last year after officials said partial remains from the bombing had been cremated in 2017. The city later said, however, that the remains had not been destroyed and had been found at the medical examiner’s office.

The lineage of the remains, from the bombing onward, are painstakingly detailed in a 257-page report released in June 2022 by a pair of law firms — Dechert LLP and Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP — which also made recommendations for policy improvements at the city’s medical examiner’s office.

Metro staff contributed to this report. 

More from our Sister Sites