GUTHRIE CENTER - A deadly house fire in Guthrie Center is declared arson. Now the family of two young girls killed in the fire is speaking out.
12 year old Melanie Exline, better known as Page, died in a massive house fire Monday May 15,2017.
Her 16 year old cousin Shakiah Cockerham also did not survive. Investigators believe someone purposefully set the fire. Family and friends are devastated. One of Page's closest cousins cried as he approached the burned down house.
"There was a pool over there that we used to play together and (pause) We also did a whole bunch of easter eggs there in that yard," said Jaren Clark.
Jenna Long and Shakiah were also very close. She said one of her favorite memories is when they were camping out and there was a storm. They stayed up all night talking.
"She was just so fun to be around. She always just loved to do fun stuff. She made me go out of my comfort zone," Jenna said.
Some of Pages classmates are still trying to wrap their heads around what happened and said it's been strange at school because she would always say hi to everyone.
A neighbor who lives directly across the street clings to her faith to get her through.
"It was so hot that even by that time my front door was kind of warm.... I'm a nurse so I've always been able to help and care for people. And not being able to do anything is the hardest part," Cindy Slaybaugh said while holding back tears.
Shakiah and Melanie's uncle suffered severe burns and is critical condition at a Nebraska hospital.
Their grandmother has three broken toes. The family planned to have a memorial service for Page and Shakiah but decided to cancel it. They said since the case was ruled an arson, they don't feel safe having a big family get together.
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