The mothers of five children killed in a house fire surrendered to police Thursday to face involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly 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 she left the children with a baby sitter, but later admitted she lied, 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.
Authorities said the early morning fire June 12 was started by children playing with matches.
Love was taken from police headquarters in handcuffs to a patrol car and was arraigned. Her attorney, Ernest Sharif, said they were ready to fight the charges.
“We’re in a very emotional climate right now,” the attorney 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.”
‘A loving parent’
He said Love was “a loving parent who did something she regrets, but she didn’t kill the children.”
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,” Ecker said. “She’s very distraught.”
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 and endangering the welfare of children.
The children killed in the fire were identified as 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 escaped uninjured.
Mangham was the mother of the three Holyfield children and lived in the house. Love was the mother of the Rankin children.
Sharif has said the women left the children for 15 to 20 minutes and that Love had one beer at the bar.
“It wasn’t a party thing,” he said.