Neighbors had reported mom of kids killed in fire

Neighbors of four children killed in a fire in southern Louisiana say they had told police their mother left her children, aged 2 through fifth grade, home alone.

Melinda Miller said she had called police Friday night to report that the children had been left without an adult, but they were released back to their mother Saturday — the day of the fire, The Advertiser ( ) of Lafayette, La., reported.

The oldest child was staying with relatives when the fire broke out in the house trailer shortly before midnight Saturday, killing Jamari McDade, 8; Amous Mouton Jr., 7; LaShay McDade, 5, and Brian Steiner, 2. Several neighbors tried to break in to rescue the children, but the heat was too intense, said Marshall Goodley, a neighbor.

The children's mother, Shaqueta McDade, 26, was booked Sunday with four counts of negligent homicide, state police said.

Miller said the children were often left unattended.

"They were too young to be home alone, entirely too young," she said.

Grief counselors were to be at Central Rayne Kindergarten and Martin Petitjean Elementary School on Monday, Acadia Parish School Superintendent John Bourque told KATC-TV ( ).

Crystal Douga, who lives across the street from the trailer, said she called police about a month ago after she found the 2-year-old walking the streets alone at midnight.

About all state fire investigators were able to work out Sunday was that the fire started in the living room, the State Fire Marshal's Office said.

McDade's family declined an interview, saying they were trying to learn what happened, KATC reported.

"I've lived in this area for 30 years," South Rayne Elementary principal Amy Whatley said. "These children have parents who were students of mine. I have former students on Facebook pouring their hearts out, wondering what they're going to tell their child."