Toronto Sun

Friday, May 17, 2002

Memories all dad has

Daughter died in blaze at guardians' home

By ROB LAMBERTI, TORONTO SUN

The tears have dried and now Kevin Simpson is angry.

All he has left are the memories of his daughter Ayisha Rea, 6, who died Tuesday in a fire at the Miller St. home of her legal guardians.

That's all he'll be able to take back to Edmonton with him now that she's dead.

Simpson has been fighting for four years to get her back, but he was only given supervised visits every other week.

Ayisha, who was known to schoolmates as Jessica, died from smoke inhalation. Her legal guardians, Raymond and Jacquie Clarke, were being evicted from the Old Weston-Davenport Rds.-area house they lived in for about a year.

They had no electricity and used flashlights and candles for light.

Jacquie had been a neighbour of the girl's biological mother and caring for her while she worked. Ayisha was abandoned by her mother about five years ago and the Clarkes sought custody of the child.

On Tuesday, Ayisha was sick and stayed home from school. She was in her room watching a battery-powered television when fire erupted. She was trapped in her room and was later found with no vital signs by firefighters.

The family lost what few possessions they had and a trust fund has been set up where cash or cheques can be made out to the Jacquie Clarke Trust Fund at any Goodwill store.

Det. Vern Small said the probe continues.

The Clarkes and Simpson have been fighting for Ayisha for about five years, and on Aug. 21, 2000, a family court judge awarded custody to the Clarke family.

Simpson agreed to pay $92 a month support but had fallen behind after his hours at National Grocers were slashed in the fall.

Access to the child was the major issue and the two sides were to go back to court in July.

"In her mind, they were her parents," Leo Monaco, the Clarkes' lawyer, said of Ayisha. "That was her family."

"The system messed up somehow," Simpson said. "I'm going to find out how they messed up, where they went wrong.

"I'm missing her. I wanted to have her. I didn't know it would end like this. What an ending."

Simpson said he hasn't heard any details about the funeral.

Despite a court order forbidding him from telling Ayisha that he was her biological father, he said he told her around Christmas, but she didn't believe him.

"She even told me there was no way I could be her dad and she gave me an explanation why I couldn't be her dad," Simpson said. "She never understood the concept but she was beginning to realize something was up."

Simpson said he abandoned his three-bedroom Edmonton condo to get custody of his daughter.

"I'm hurting inside," he said. "I did a lot of crying already. Right now, I'm a little bit angry. I don't know who I'm angry at.

"I'm angry the system allowed this to drag out as long as it did. This is over for me.

"What was hurting me all this time was I was missing out on all these years she was growing up," he said.

Copyright © 2002, Canoe, a division of Netgraphe Inc.