PITTSBURGH – A prosecutor on Wednesday recommended charging a mother with the deaths of five children who were left alone, not with a baby sitter as the woman claimed, on the night of a row house fire.
Shakita Mangham told police that seven children ranging in age from 3 to 8 were at home with a baby sitter at the time of the June 12 fire. Two 8-year-olds escaped.
It's now clear that no baby sitter was with them, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said after touring the blackened home Wednesday.
Zappala said he will recommend that police charge Mangham with involuntary manslaughter and other counts, including charges related to the endangerment of firefighters and her statements about the baby sitter.
"It's incredibly sad. It's very sad," said Zappala, standing near a cluster of stuffed animals and a pink balloon. "It's definitely a crime."
The blaze was sparked by children playing with matches, investigators concluded.
Killed in the fire were Daekia Holyfield, 7; Cedano Holyfield, 4; Dezekiah Holyfield, 3; Azquel Rankin, 5; and Andre Rankin, 6.
Mangham, 25, is the mother of the three Holyfield children and lived in the house. Her attorney, James Ecker, declined to comment.
The mother of the other two children who died was interviewed by authorities Wednesday morning, Zappala said. Investigators were still deciding whether she would face charges, he said.
Her attorney did not immediately return a message Wednesday.
Sheila Ward, Mangham's mother and the owner of the house, said she doesn't believe her daughter should be charged.
"She's a good mother. It's a freak accident," Ward said.