Brother of MOVE bombing victims receives sisters remains, apology from Philadelphia

For a North Carolina family, the long bitter history of the MOVE bombing ended Wednesday as remains of two girls were handed over.

MOVE members, led by founder John Africa, practiced a lifestyle that shunned modern conveniences, preached equal rights for animals and rejected government authority. They took the last name Africa.

The group clashed with police and neighbors, and police seeking to oust members used a helicopter to drop a bomb on the house on May 13, 1985. Five children and six adults inside died, and the resulting fire destroyed more than 60 row houses.

12-year-old Zanetta Dotson and her 14-year-old sister Katricia were living in the Osage Avenue MOVE compound. The girls were among the 5 children and 6 adults who perished in the massive fire. Last year, it was revealed the University of Pennsylvania and the city had the remains for years.


Philadelphia health commissioner Thomas Farley resigned in May last year after officials said partial remains from the bombing had been cremated in 2017. The city later said, however, that the remains had not been destroyed and had been found at the medical examiner's office.

The girls’ brother, Lionell Dotson of North Carolina, walked into the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office Wednesday where he said he received an apology. 

"She came out on her own, on her own accord, and said I’m sorry for your loss and gave a heartfelt apology. I appreciate it and I accept it," Dotson said.

Lionell Dotson hugs the remains of his two sisters who were killed in the MOVE bombing.

At city expense, the remains were taken to the Ivy Hill Cemetery and cremated. Looking on was Dotson’s wife, Tenee, who was holding her infant grandson. 

"It’s bitter sweet," Tenee said. "It’s really sad my grandson doesn’t get to meet his great aunts, but it’s a good day they’re coming back to Fayetteville, North Carolina with us."

A 1986 commission report called the decision to bomb an occupied row house "unconscionable." MOVE survivors were awarded a $1.5 million judgment in a 1996 lawsuit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report