'I finally get to take them away': Philly releases remains of 2 MOVE bombing victims to family

"They never should have been stored in a dark, damp shelf in the first place for 37 years," said Lionell Dotson.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022 9:14PM
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Katricia and Zanetta Dotson were inside when police dropped a bomb on the MOVE house on Osage Avenue, killing 11 people. The girls were 14 and 12.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Thirty-seven years after the MOVE bombing in West Philadelphia, the remains of two girls were turned over to their brother, Lionell Dotson, by the city's Medical Examiner's Office on Wednesday.

"She said, 'I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sorry for what you went through. This should never happen to your family'," Dotson said. "It's all so real. It's finally going to come together."

Lionell was 8 years old when his sisters Katricia and Zanetta Dotson died.

SEE ALSO: Philly releases independent report on mishandling of MOVE bombing victims' remains

Both girls were inside when police dropped a bomb on the MOVE house on Osage Avenue on May 13, 1985. In total, 11 people were killed. The girls were 14 and 12.

"To find out that they finally come off that shelf, they never should have been stored in a dark, damp shelf in the first place for 37 years. I finally get to take them away from the city that helped kill them," Dotson said.

"These particular remains that are being realized today were just put in a box and forgotten at the medical examiners office, and forgotten since 1985," said attorney Daniel Hartstein.

Last year, it was discovered that the Philadelphia's Medical Examiner's Office had some of the girls' remains.

Then-Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley resigned last year after admitting he arranged for the cremation and disposal of the girls' partial remains in 2017 without notifying family members. Days after that announcement, the remains turned up in the medical examiner's office.

SEE ALSO: MOVE members demand answers on missing children's remains

"I think that the city, instead of worrying about the humanity of the victims, they were worried about themselves," Hartstein said.

Hartstein said the status of the rest of the girls' remains is under investigation, including some of Katricia's remains that were used in anthropology classes at the University of Pennsylvania, without the family's knowledge or consent.

After a year of fighting, Dotson said he received an apology.

"The medical examiner, yes, she apologized today. A heartfelt, sincere apology," he said.

The family then drove to Ivy Hill Cemetery to have the remains cremated.

Dotson cried as a staff member handed him two small boxes. The boxes contained his sister's cremated remains.

"I got them. I got them," he said through tears.

The family continues to explore their legal options going forward.

The city released a statement reading in part, "City officials are meeting with the next of kin but will not provide specific details out of respect for the families."

Dotson will now take them back to North Carolina where he lives.