PITTSBURGH – The mothers of five children killed in a house fire surrendered to police Thursday to face involuntary manslaughter charges for leaving the youngsters alone while they went to a bar.
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, turned herself in at police headquarters a short time later.
Mangham initially told police that the children were left with a baby sitter the night of the June 12 fire. She later admitted she had given investigators false information to avoid getting into trouble and because she wanted to attend funeral services and remain available for her surviving son, according to a criminal complaint.
Love also said later that she knew there was no baby sitter, and that the children had been left in the care of two 8-year-olds.
Love was taken from police headquarters in handcuffs and was expected to be arraigned Thursday. Her attorney, Ernest Sharif, said they were ready to fight the charges.
"We're in a very emotional climate right now," Sharif said Thursday. "Five children died. Automatically people want to make the connection it was her fault. But from a legal standpoint, it was not her fault."
Sharif called Love "a loving parent who did something she regrets, but she didn't kill the children."
Love was accompanied by several relatives, including her father, who said his daughter's state of mind was "terrible."
"We're going to try to get her out as soon as we can," Lutual Love said.
Mangham was arraigned and was to be released after posting 10 percent of a $10,000 bond, said her attorney, Jim Ecker. A preliminary hearing was set for June 29.
"It's a very tragic case. She's very distraught," said Ecker, who refused to comment on the facts of the case.
Police charged Love and Mangham on Wednesday with five counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of making false reports to police. They are also charged with reckless endangering firefighters who responded to the blaze and endangering the welfare of children.
Killed in the fire were Daekia Holyfield, 7; Cedano Holyfield, 4; Dezekiah Holyfield, 3; Azequel Rankin, 5; and Andre Rankin, 6.
Two 8-year-old boys who were also in the home that night — Javon Irwin and Huedon Chambliss — escaped uninjured.
Mangham, who lived in the house, is the mother of the three Holyfield children and Irwin. Love was the mother of the Rankin children.
Authorities said the early morning fire was started by children playing with matches.
Mangham told police that one of her children, Cedano, told her a month earlier that one of the other children, Daekia, had been playing with matches and had learned to light them from a schoolmate, according to a criminal complaint.
Daekia demonstrated how she would light matches using pieces of paper and an empty matchbook, she said, adding that it was unclear where Daekia got the matchbook as Mangham said she used only lighters.
Sharif has said that Love and Mangham left the children for maybe 15 to 20 minutes and that Love had one beer at the bar.
"It wasn't a party thing," he said.