What had been a year full of tragedy for Jane Lee Russell ended early Tuesday in a tragic manner when the 65-year-old Atmore woman perished in a fire that swept through her Carver Avenue home.
“This has been one year for our family,” said Marilyn Wesley, Russell’s second cousin. “In February we had to go to New York when her twin brother died unexpectedly. A month later, her brother’s daughter passed in Loxley. Then, in April, her grandson (Donta Russell, who was shot to death inside his car) was killed here.”
Russell, known affectionately throughout the community as “Duck Hen,” was unable to escape when flames devoured the residence in which she lived with her grandson, who tried but was unable to rescue her when flames devoured the dwelling.
“Her grandson got up and tried to get to her,” said Wesley as she glanced at the charred remains of the home. “When he opened the door, the fire and smoke overcame him and he had to get out through the window.”
Atmore firefighters, Poarch firefighters and Atmore police were sent to the fiery scene at 3:42 a.m. Once the fire was tamed, emergency personnel made a grisly discovery.
“The fire department and police units arrived to find the home fully engulfed in flames,” said Police Chief Chuck Brooks. “They learned that there was a 65-year-old woman still inside the home. Once the flames were extinguished, the female was found, deceased.”
APD and AFD investigators, along with an investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, were on the scene until around 9:30 Tuesday morning, trying to determine the cause of the fatal inferno.
“We are currently investigating the cause of the fire,” Brooks said. “At this time it is undetermined.”
The fire victim’s son, Gary Russell, who said Tuesday morning that “everybody knew (his mother),” vowed that he and the remainder of his relatives would rely on their spiritual faith in dealing with the family’s latest tragedy.
“We’re going to get through it,” he said quietly. “We know that God is in control and that he doesn’t make any mistakes, so we will trust in Him and Him only. God knows what’s best for all of us and He’ll see us through.”
He recalled the final verbal exchange he shared with his mother.
“I loved my mom and I did all I could to help her,” he said of Russell, who had been staying with his mother-in-law, a double amputee, recently. “Every time I would drop her off over there, she would tell me that she loves me. She told me yesterday (Monday) that she loved me and would see me tomorrow. That’s the last time I talked with her.”