Originally created 06/05/06

Fatal fire shocks town's residents



HOSCHTON, Ga. - Tragedy. It's a word many of the people who live in this small Jackson County city rarely used before Tuesday.

But now, it seems it's a part of everyday language.

On Tuesday, four people - two of them children - were found dead inside a three-bedroom house off Georgia Highway 332. Authorities say it was a murder-arson.

It has been a while, residents say, since anything has shaken the town like that fire.

"It's not something that any one of us likes to think about," said Kay Schulte, an 11-year resident of Hoschton.

Authorities identified the victims as Marvelette J'Laine Strickland, 29; her 4-year-old son, J. Manjuan Tyshein Stringer; her 2-year-old daughter, J. Lasia Asiyne Stringer; and an unidentified woman, who some neighbors think was the children's grandmother.

Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have been in Hoschton daily investigating the fire. They now want to talk to a man seen leaving the area in a hurry who later ended up in Winder.

It has left residents grappling with the realization that such an atrocity can happen in seemingly quiet Hoschton - a town of about 1,440 residents in western Jackson County.

While the slayings of two adults is enough to jar any community, the loss of two children has left many, including local business owner Frankie Hulme, aghast.

"How could anyone be that cruel and hurt children?" asked Mr. Hulme, the owner of Frankies Hair Salon & Gifts.

After the fire, victims' family members gathered in the historic train depot downtown where residents brought them food and helped them cope with their loss, even though many in town did not know the family.

"The whole town gets involved," Ms. Schulte said. "I think that's saying a lot for a small town."