An Illinois mother has been charged after her five young children died in a fire on her birthday, reports said.
Sabrina M. Dunigan, 34, was charged with five counts of felony endangering the life or health of a child. The charges were announced Nov. 3 after a blaze ripped through their East St. Louis, Illinois, apartment over the summer.
Authorities accused Dunigan of knowingly causing or permitting a child to be placed in circumstances that endangered the child’s life or health by leaving her children without supervision, according to the Belleville News-Democrat..
Firefighters responded to a fire around 3 a.m. on Aug. 6 and reportedly found two children dead inside a bedroom, and three others were found unconscious on the kitchen floor. Two of the children were pronounced dead once they were taken outside, and the fifth child died later at a hospital, East St. Louis Assistant Fire Chief George McClellan told The Associated Press.
The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated the fire and has not yet commented on the cause.
The children, their mother and maternal grandparents began living in the apartment, a one-bedroom unit converted by the family into two living areas, about five months earlier after a fire destroyed their previous home. Dunigan told reporters and investigators that she thought that fire was set by her boyfriend, according to KSDK News.
Her father, Greg Dunigan said he and his wife were supposed to be watching Loy-el Dunigan, 2; Jabari Johnson, 4; twin 8-year-old girls, Heaven and Neveah Dunigan; and Deontae Davis, 9, but "it just so happened we fell asleep," when Dunigan left to pick up her boyfriend from work around 3 a.m., according to StLToday.com.
He and his wife reportedly jumped from the apartment's second floor to escape, while officials said Dunigan returned home to the blaze, and suffered burns on her arms and feet trying to reach her children
Dunigan and her father said they suspected it was an electrical fire and claimed the cramped apartment lacked smoke detectors. Rudy McIntosh, a former police officer who is the building's landlord, said he put smoke detectors in all of his rental properties, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
A judge set the mom's bail at $75,000, though Dunigan was reportedly not in custody as of Nov. 6.