updated 2/25/2008 8:02:12 PM ET 2008-02-26T01:02:12

Two mothers pleaded no contest Monday to involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of five of their children in a house fire that began while the women were out at a bar.

Shakita Mangham and Furaha Love, both 26, entered the pleas in return for the dropping of lesser charges. Mangham also pleaded no contest to making false reports to police.

Love and Mangham left the children in the care of two 8-year-olds in June, police said. Authorities say the early morning fire was started by children playing with matches.

Prosecutors said earlier that Mangham initially told police the children were left with a baby sitter. She later acknowledged giving 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.

Mangham's attorney, James Ecker, said his client was "extremely remorseful."

"It's a tragedy," he said. "It's something she's going to live with for the rest of her life."

Love and her attorney declined to comment.

The women are scheduled to be sentenced May 22.

Mangham, who lived in the house, pleaded no contest to three counts of involuntary manslaughter — one for each of her dead children. The judge said she faces a maximum penalty of 15 1/2 to 31 years in prison.

Love pleaded no contest to two counts and faces a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.

Love's father, Lutual Love, said the children's deaths "changed our lives around."

"I'm just praying that the judge understands that the children we lost is sentence enough for everybody," he said, weeping outside the courthouse.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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