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Who set fire that killed Ryan Ferris after boy saved family from burning home?


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    ASTON, Pennsylvania (KYW) — Hailed a hero. Ryan Ferris saved his family from a house fire on a fateful November morning in 1998 but he never made it out.

The fire was no accident. Now decades later, one question still weighs on his mother’s mind: Who murdered Ryan?

“No, nobody came forward,” Roberta Ferris said.

Ferris visits her late son’s grave often. She and the grandkids paint rocks and plant flowers at the plot in Saint Francis DeSales Cemetery in Lenni, fondly remembering Ryan Ferris.

“I was really close to him,” Ferris said.

Ryan died on Nov. 6, 1998, at 14 years old. It was a case of murder after somebody set the family’s house on fire.

The eighth-grader from the now-closed Saint Francis DeSales Parish School planned to go to Cardinal O’Hara after graduation. He loved being active, playing sports, and he valued his Catholic faith.

“He was young. But he died praying out loud, they heard him, the firemen. Screaming, praying the Hail Mary,” Ferris said.

It was 3 a.m. Ryan, a younger sister, an older brother and his mother were asleep. Ryan’s dad had already left for work.

Ryan was jolted awake.

“The fire came up his side of the house, he was alerted first, He came down and told me, ‘Mom, the house is on fire,” Ferris said.

Ryan immediately thought of his older brother upstairs. Roberta Ferris sorts through the memories of escaping the flames.

“The house was exploding. He says, ‘Mom, you can’t go downstairs,’ there was just a wall of flame. He said, ‘I have to go upstairs and get Matt,’ and that’s what he did, and he didn’t make it,” Ferris said.

Hanging out a window two stories up, Roberta watched her oldest son jump. Her daughter and a pet were already out.

“So I just started screaming Ryan, Ryan, Ryan,” she recalls.

But no Ryan. Firefighters asked if anybody was still inside.

“And I pointed to where he is and the firemen said to me are you sure? I said yeah,” Ferris said.

The fire had been intentionally set along an exterior wall of the home.

Shortly after the fire, the Ferris’ home was bulldozed. What remains is an overgrown vacant lot.

Justice has eluded this family going on 23 years.

Roberta Ferris says they had no enemies. The investigation into who and why are unresolved.

There are leads, but detectives acknowledge the case has been cold for some time.

“It will be great to bring closure to the Ferris family to solve a case like this,” Aston Township Police Detective Thomas Giancristoforo said.

“Somebody has to come forward and say either I did it or I know who did it, because there’s no evidence,” Ferris said.

Ryan wanted to be a priest and a dentist. His mom said he prayed daily at Saint Francis.

This Delaware County family’s special intention for more than two decades now is finding out who did this and why.

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