An Illinois mother is facing criminal charges in connection to the deaths of her five young children who were killed in an August apartment fire while they were home alone.
Sabrina M. Dunigan, 34, of East St. Louis, was charged on Wednesday with five counts of endangering the life or health of a child after her kids — all under the age of 10 — died in the Aug. 6 blaze, according to court documents obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A judge set her bail was at $75,000. She was not in custody as of Friday, according to online records.
Greg Vespa, an investigator with the Illinois state fire marshal’s office, said in charging documents that Dunigan had left her children home alone and “knowingly caused or permitted a child to be placed in circumstances that endangered the child’s life or health.”
The mom had gone to pick up her boyfriend from work at 3 a.m. that morning — her 34th birthday — and returned to find her house in flames. She said she suffered burns on her arms and feet trying to save her children, but was unable to reach them.
Her father Greg Dunigan and his wife, who live in the same apartment building, were supposed to look after the children while she was out, but “It just so happened we fell asleep,” he told the newspaper. He and his wife jumped from the second floor to escape.
Four children died at the scene and another died at a local hospital shortly after. They were identified as Loy-el Dunigan, 2; Jabari Johnson, 4; twin 8-year-old girls, Heaven and Neveah “Veah” Dunigan; and Deontae Davis, 9.
The blaze remains under investigation. Dunnigan and her father have said they believe it was an electrical fire that began inside their crammed one-bedroom apartment, according to the Post-Dispatch.
They also cited a lack of smoke detectors as a factor in her children’s deaths. Landlord Rudy McIntosh disputed the claim, telling the paper all of his rental properties have detectors.
Greg Dunigan was shocked that authorities would charge his daughter with a crime after she already suffered the loss of all her children.
“Why are they trying to do this to her?” he told The Post-Dispatch Thursday. “She done lost all she can lose already. Why they want to take the rest away, meaning herself? She don’t have nothing left.”
He said that his daughter does not have a lawyer yet.