The mother whose 3-year-old twin boys were killed in a house fire Jan. 4 after she left them home alone for nearly an hour has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment by Allegheny County Police.
Dalawna Berran-Lett of North Braddock surrendered to police Tuesday afternoon and is being held at the Allegheny County Jail.
The victims, Ky'heir and Dy'heir Arthur, were buried on Friday. The Allegheny County medical examiner's office has determined that one boy died of burns and smoke inhalation, while the other died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Ms. Berran-Lett, 32, told police she left the boys watching television -- after locking the front door's deadbolt with her key -- to go look for her 15-year-old daughter Mariah, who she believed had stolen a baggie of marijuana from her purse. She told police she did not want to bring the boys outside with her to the school bus stop to wait for Mariah because "it was too cold outside."
While Ms. Berran-Lett was gone, from approximately 2:45 to 3:50 p.m., the boys turned on the only working burner of a grease-encrusted stove, according to District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. The grease caught fire over a 15-minute period and the fire engulfed the wood-frame and Insulbrick house within another 15 minutes, he said. Firefighters were called to the blaze at 3:33 p.m.
By the time Ms. Berran-Lett got home, her rental house was in flames and surrounded by firefighters. Her daughter was standing outside.
The Jan. 4 fire was not the first time Ms. Berran-Lett had left the boys home alone, according to police. Ms. Berran-Lett told police she left them alone about two weeks before the fatal fire while she walked to a store to buy rolling papers so she could smoke marijuana, according to a police criminal complaint. She was only gone for 20 to 30 minutes, she told police, but when she returned home, she found the boys upstairs and smoke pouring from the kitchen.
The boys had gotten a rack of ribs out of the freezer, placed them onto the stove top, turned on the burner and tried to cook the ribs, she told police.
Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1122.