A husband and wife, who were described by neighbors as quiet people who adored their 13-month-old daughter, were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder after the child died in what apparently was an arson fire in the couple's North Long Beach apartment, police said.
Long Beach homicide detectives said Donald Simmons, 33, and his wife, Marilyn, 32, were taken into custody when they returned to their charred, second-floor apartment in the 6400 block of Atlantic Avenue, after drinking at a neighborhood bar.
Simmons also was booked on suspicion of arson and his wife was booked for investigation of child abuse, police said. Both were being held without bail at the Long Beach City Jail, police said.
Long Beach Fire Department units responded to a reported blaze at the Tropical Palms Apartments at 12:22 a.m. and quickly doused the flames in the couple's unit. Once inside the apartment, firefighters found the infant, Donalyn, dead in her crib in a bedroom.
An autopsy was scheduled to determine the exact cause of death, a coroner's spokesman said.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation, but arson investigators said the blaze, which started in the living room, appeared to be deliberately set.
Detectives said they did not know why the couple apparently left the infant alone in the apartment at such a late hour. Simmons had recently quit his job as a custodian for the Red Cross, they added.
The arrests stunned neighbors, who said they could not believe that Simmons and his wife were capable of hurting anyone.
"They were very nice people," said Louis Mendoza, manager of the apartment building. "He (the husband) was a very mild person, and the wife was just as nice. I just can't understand it."
One neighbor, Latricia Mack, 19, said Marilyn Simmons occasionally dropped by to chat about her daughter.
"She was always talking about her little girl," Mack said.
Another neighbor, Joseph Bates Jr., said he was impressed with the couple when they held a house-warming party in 1982 after moving into the complex, which is composed of three 17-unit buildings.