Investigation continues in fatal North Braddock house fire

Cause unknown in blaze that left twin boys, age 3, dead

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It was too cold outside Friday afternoon.

Dalawna Beran-Lett was in her house on Rebecca Avenue in North Braddock with her 3-year-old twin boys. She knew the school bus had stopped to let off her 15-year-old daughter, Mariah Lett, but Mariah had not come home.

Ms. Beran-Lett figured she would run up to the bus stop and check a friend's house to try to find her daughter.

It was cold out and she hadn't planned on being out long, but then she couldn't find her daughter.

By the time she got home, the rental house that she and her children moved into at Thanksgiving was in flames and surrounded by firefighters.

Her daughter was standing outside.

Her boys, Ky'heir and Dy'heir Arthur, were still in the house.

Firefighters did not know the children were inside until she told them.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 3:31 p.m. She figured Saturday she got back to the house around 3:45 or 3:50.

North Braddock Mayor Tom Whyel said he regularly drives past the house and knew the previous occupants had moved, so he thought it was abandoned, like 360 other houses that are empty in the borough.

The house had been inspected and an occupancy permit issued before Ms. Beran-Lett moved in with the children. The father of the twins, Kalem Arthur, is serving a sentence for firearms violations in the State Correctional Institution in Wayne County.

The family was so quiet that Mary Huber, 90, who lives next door, did not know anyone lived there, according to her nephew Bill Lightheart, who called in the fire. Ms. Huber is well known in the neighborhood for her walks along the street cleaning up any trash and for still shoveling her own snow.

The fire marshal has not ruled on how the fire started.

The medical examiner has not yet released their identities, because the children are unrecognizable. While the cause of the boys' deaths has been ruled to be smoke inhalation and burns, the manner is not yet determined because of the lack of determination on the cause of the fire from the Allegheny County fire marshal. No one was available Saturday in the fire marshal's office.

Mr. Whyel said the North Braddock police told him the law calls for charges to be filed against Ms. Beran-Lett for leaving the children unattended.

Ms. Beran-Lett said the stove was not left on and there were no candles or open flames when she left the boys. She didn't want to bring them out with her to the bus stop; "it was too cold outside," she said.

She said she told the investigators her own theory of the fire is that there was a pan with grease sitting on the stove and there was chicken in the refrigerator, so one of the boys may have decided to cook up some chicken like his mom does.

"They are my monkey-see-monkey-do boys," she said.

She called the boys a couple of "busybodies."

After she got to the fire scene, officials had her sit in an ambulance with her daughter and a friend until the children's bodies were found. She stood when officials came to tell her they had found the boys. When they said what she had been hoping wasn't true -- that her little boys had perished in the blaze -- she said her knees went weak and she dropped down.

"I was always there. I just wasn't there yesterday," she said. "I was on it. I was looking for my daughter."

After the fire, when investigators approached her, she said she asked, "Am I going to jail?"

She said they asked her why she had asked, and she answered because she had left them home alone.

The investigators told her not to worry about charges, that they would be handled later but for now she should concentrate on burying her sons.

That is what she is now trying to do.

"I'm just taking care of my boys," she said.

The funeral will be handled by the Robinson Funeral Home, Perry South.

neigh_east

Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699. First Published January 6, 2013 12:00 AM


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