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Cassie Gray was ‘a gift to everyone,’ sister says

WARREN — As a deadly New Year’s Day fire continues to be investigated, a sister grieves her family’s loss, and also the community’s loss.

“This is just devastating,” said Cassandra Gray’s sister Niki Frenchko, Trumbull County commissioner, when contacted Monday night by the newspaper. “The whole community is suffering. It’s not just our family — it’s everyone who encountered her … She was a gift to everyone.”

Cassie Barr Gray and her 5-year-old son, Otto, were killed in the blaze around 3:15 a.m. at 2853 Woodland St. NE. Husband Lee Gray and 7-year-old son, Simon, were able to escape before fire crews arrived.

A GoFundMe account called the “Lee Gray Family Emergency and Memorial Fund” has seen more than 1,700 donors — and the donations keep coming. Tim Orwig of Warren organized the online donation.

Frenchko said of her sister: “If you meet her one time, you feel connected to her. She brings joy to everyone she encounters. Her spirit is pure, and people who meet her feel that. She is a peacemaker. And that’s why this is so devastating. She’s the most special person you know.”

She worked at Salvatore’s Italian Grill in Howland.

As of Monday evening few details about the fire were forthcoming. According to a Trumbull County 911 report, initial calls showed the fire to be at the rear of the house and garage, with possible explosions. The house was engulfed when Warren firefighters arrived.

“We do not have any updates on our investigation of the fire at this time,” Brian Bohnert, spokesman for the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s office in Columbus, said Monday. “We’re still working with the Warren police and fire departments, and the county coroner.”

According to Kathy Meszaros, chief forensic investigator for the Trumbull County Coroner’s office, no official ruling has been made on the deaths.

Frenchko recalled how children always drew close to her “baby sister.”

“Any time there is a baby, she just wanted to be a mom. Her nature was so pure. That’s why babies and other kids always gravitate to her,” she said. “She lived to be a mom — and she practiced with my kids because she was an 8-year-old auntie” when Frenchko’s first child was born.

news@tribtoday.com

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