Two mothers of Pittsburgh in USA, charged with causing involuntary manslaughter of their five children, have turned themselves in.
They had gone to a bar, leaving the children unattended.
Wearing a T-shirt that read "Mommy Loves You" and "God Loves You More," Shakita Mangham, 25, arrived at municipal court early Thursday. Furaha Love, 25, surrendered at police headquarters a short time later. They are being charged with five counts of involuntary manslaughter and multiple counts of reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children. Both also face charges of making false reports to police.
"This is definitely a crime," District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said at an impromptu news conference. "And," he said, "we're going to give [police] the charges we think are appropriate this afternoon. After that, [police] can move at their convenience."
One of the attorneys representing the two mothers disagreed.
"I think that's a bad call. A manslaughter charge means somebody died as result of your actions," lawyer Ernest H. Sharif said yesterday. "These children died because of a fire. Neither girl set the fire."
Mangham lived in the home with her four children, Dezekiah Holyfield, 3, Cedano Holyfield Jr., 4, and Daekia Holyfield, 7, all of whom died, and her son, Jevon Irwin, 8, who was uninjured.
Love's three children also were at the home.
Two of them, Azequel Rankin, 5, and Andre Rankin, 6, died in the fire. Her 8-year-old son, Huedon Chambliss, was not injured.
Investigators said the fire was caused by children playing with matches. Mr. Zappala said it had not been determined which of the children started the fire, though early reports were that it may have been started by the two 8-year-old boys.
Mangham, in an interview with police earlier this week, admitted that she lied when she told investigators that she had left all seven children with a 17-year-old baby sitter while she and Ms. Love went to a Lincoln Avenue bar where they had a beer late June 11 or early June 12.
Sharif, who represents Ms. Love, said the women returned to the home about the same time as fire trucks around 1:20 a.m.
Mr. Zappala toured the burned-out home with his chief prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli, city homicide detectives, fire investigators and Deputy District Attorney Laura Ditka, who would be the prosecutor in any case against the mothers.
Mr. Zappala said investigators were still trying to determine whether the five children who died had been locked inside a room in the house and couldn't easily escape when other children playing with matches sparked the blaze.
While Mangham is a certified nursing assistant, was questioned by detectives on Monday.
Love, a senior student of criminology at Point Park University who worked in the evenings, was interviewed yesterday at police headquarters. She was accompanied by her attorney, one of her sisters, and her father, Lutual Love, who wore a T-shirt bearing the photographs of all seven children.
Zappala said the maximum penalty for involuntary manslaughter is 2 1/2 to five years in jail.
"They're saying that, had the mother been home, the fire would not have been set. That's not so," Sharif said yesterday. "That's just speculation. Being absent from home is not the cause of the death. The law says there has to be a direct connection."
The argument did not quell the outrage of some in the community, nor investigators and the prosecutor.
"These kids by all indications were left home alone with two 8-year-olds, and that's not acceptable conduct in this community," Zappala said.
Lutual Love, as he waited for his daughter to be questioned, said the family prays constantly for the children, their mothers and themselves.
"This is in God's hands," Mr. Love said. "They think they're going to punish [the mothers], but they're already being punished more and more each day."