Illinois mother Sabrina Dunigan, 34, faces criminal charges in connection with the deaths of her five small children in an apartment fire on Aug. 6, when they were home alone.
According to charges filed by Illinois state fire marshal’s office investigator Greg Vespa, Dunigan had left her children home alone and knowingly caused or permitted a child to be put in circumstances that jeopardized the child’s life or health.
The cause of the fire has still not been determined.
Dunnigan and her father Greg Dunigan believe the fire started in their cramped one-bedroom flat due to an electrical malfunction.
They also blamed her children’s deaths on a lack of smoke detectors. Rudy McIntosh, the landlord, refuted the claim, said that all of his rental houses have detectors.
On her 34th birthday, Dunigan had gone to pick up her boyfriend from work at 3 a.m., only to return to discover her apartment in flames. She claimed she received burns to her arms and feet while attempting to save her children but was unable to.
Her father and his wife lived in the same apartment building as her, were meant to watch the kids while she was gone, but “it just so happened we fell asleep,” Greg said. To escape the fire, they leapt from the second floor.
Four children died during the fire, while another died later at a local hospital. Loy-el Dunigan, 2; Jabari Johnson, 4; Heaven and Neveah “Veah” Dunigan, twin 8-year-old sisters; and Deontae Davis, nine were recognized, reported NY Post.
“They are blameless in this. They’re just kids. It’s tough,” Assistant Fire Chief George McClellan of the East St. Louis Fire Department said.
Arthur Robinson, a family friend, was scheduled to arrive that morning with balloons, a table, and chairs to help celebrate.
“I fell to my knees and almost passed out when I heard they were gone,” he said. He described Sabrina as “a great mother, a responsible mother.”
She was charged on Wednesday with five counts of endangering the life or health of a child after her children — all under the age of 10—died.
After the felony charges were filed, Greg said of his daughter: “Why are they trying to do this to her? She did lose all she can lose already. Why do they want to take the rest away, meaning herself? She doesn’t have nothing left,”
He said his daughter did not have counsel, and online court records did not show if she had been detained or if a bond had been set for her at the St. Clair County jail, reported People.