Family speaks about 89 year-old woman burned alive in fire

By Jason Miles - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - There is not much left of Alice Saulsberry's front porch which faces a secluded stretch of South Main Street in Memphis.  It is where her family says the decades-long resident spent many of her days.

"She loved that neighborhood," said niece Ann Dabney.  "Would sit on that porch and wave to anybody," she added.

It was on her front porch Tuesday night where Saulsberry cried for help from neighbors as fire consumed her house and her 89 year-old body.

"They tried to get her off the porch and rolled her over," said Dabney.  "But it was really too late," she added.  "She was in flames then," said Dabney.

Saulsberry's nieces said she was more like a mother to them.

"Anything we needed," said niece Loretta Buntyn.  "She was there," she added.  "Just a loving person," said Buntyn.

They are still coming to grips with the painful death their aunt endured.  Firefighters estimate she was burned on 100 percent of her body.

"We just can't imagine," said Buntyn.  "It's just hard to visualize her being like that," she added.

They tell us Saulsberry was the eldest member of White Stone Missionary Baptist Church.  It is located on South Parkway not far from her mostly wooden house which now sits in ruins in the neighborhood she loved so much.

"And she was the sunshine of that neighborhood," said niece Ann Dabney.

The nieces could not explain why their aunt's life ended so horribly, but said they are certain of one thing.              

"I do know she's in a better place," said Dabney.

Mrs. Saulsberry was a widow and lost her only child at an early age.  Her nieces suspect the fire may have been sparked by a space heater.  But fire officials are still investigating.

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