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More than 37 years after the bombing, a family member gets back his two sisters' remains.
More than 37 years after the bombing, a family member gets back his two sisters' remains. Photo: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images.

More than 35 years after the MOVE bombing, Philly returns victims remains back to family

The 1985 MOVE bombing was ordered by the city and engulfed 61 homes, killing 11, including five children.

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Almost four decades after the infamous MOVE bombing in West Philadelphia, ordered by the city, the remains of two girls, Katricia and Zanetta Dotson, 14 and 12, were released by the city back over to their brother, Lionell, who was just eight years old at the time of their deaths. 

Lionell arrived on Wednesday, Aug. 3, to collect and cremate the remains as well as say final goodbyes. 

In May of 1985, the Philadelphia Police Department dropped a bomb on the home of the Black Liberation Group on Osage Avenue with the fire department allowing the flame to completely engulf not just that home, but 61 other homes on the block. 

Eleven total people, including five children, lost their lives. 

This comes after it was reported last year by local news outlets that the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, without the knowledge of the families, were in possession of some of the remains of child victims in the fire. It was later found out that Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office had desecrated some of the MOVE victim remains. 

The city then hired two law firms to investigate with the report being released this past June of 2022, but ultimately did not answer any questions and only opened up trauma again for the families. 

Dotson asked the city for two things, his sisters’ remains as well as an in-person apology from city officials. He later met in early July of this year with city officials who agreed to return the remains. 

Daniel Hartstein, one of Dotson’s lawyers said officials agreed to release the remains “much to our relief and Mr. Dotson’s relief.” Dotson himself pointed to pressure from the public and its persistence for being the reason the city allowed for the release. 

“I gave them the dates and I stood firm when I said: ‘Look, I need to be in Philadelphia on this date, not this date and I don’t want them shipped through the mail. I want to physically be there with them,’ because the city was trying to ship them through mail. I said ‘No, they are no one’s trophies. They are my sisters,’” Dotson said about the situation to WHYY. 

While the remains have been released to him, Dotson still awaits the in-person apology from Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. 

Dotson was joined by his lawyer, and family members as he waited for the remains at Ivy Hill Cemetery. 

“I’m very, very happy. It’s like finally coming to an end. I go home, I can say my goodbyes, and I can finally put this part of my life behind me,” he said.

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