FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The shocking death of three young boys on May 21, 1988, the victims of arson on Central Drive, gripped the city and remained unsolved for more than 30 years.

Wednesday Brian Martin, cold case homicide detective for the Fort Wayne Police Department, identified the man who set the house on fire by throwing a Molotov cocktail into the front window of 2928 Central Dr.

Martin’s one regret is that Jarvis Jefferson, aka Rohi Isreal, is no longer alive to face justice. Were he alive today, Jefferson would be facing three murder charges, Martin said.

Jefferson was 53 when he died of a drug overdose Dec. 28, 2020, Martin said. At the time of the deaths, Jefferson was 19. No motive has been given.

Pictured are, from left, Jermaine Mitchell, Genayle Mitchell, and Durell Mitchell, all killed in a fire at 2928 Central Drive on May 21, 1988.

The boys’ mother, Sandra, died a little over a year ago, carrying this sorrow to her grave, Martin said. It’s been up to the boys’ father, Larry Mitchell, to keep their memory alive as the only surviving family member, police said.

The massive and intense fire injured other family members, according to Martin’s report and killed Durell Mitchell, 3 Genayle Mitchell, 5 and Jermaine Mitchell, 11.

The fire broke out early in the morning at the two-story home near East Pontiac Street and South Anthony Boulevard. Video from the scene that day showed smoke rising high from the home as firefighters worked.

Fort Wayne Homicide Detective Brian Martin

Nothing remains of the home but a vacant lot where Mitchell returns to grieve the loss of his sons.

Mitchell approached Martin and asked him to re-open the case where Jefferson was always the suspect, Martin said. Martin said he reached out to several witnesses and officers who worked the case. Evidence, statements, interviews and crime scene details continued to lead to Jefferson, who had confessed to the crime to a relative, Martin said.

As a fresh pair of eyes on the case, Martin, credited more than three years ago with solving the unsolved murder case of April Tinsley, killed in April, 1980, pieced together the evidence and convinced the Allen County Prosecutor’s office of Jefferson’s guilt.

“It sucks because he’s dead and we can’t take this before a judge,” Martin said Wednesday.

This photo from May 21, 1988, shows firefighters battling a fire at 2928 Central Drive. (WANE Archive)