Investigation could lead to charges in fire case; police, fire, other officials to confer
BY MICHELLE L. QUINN Post-Tribune correspondent January 13, 2014 1:10PM
The remains of a duplex at 644 Sibley in Hammond, IN where 3 children were killed by a fire believed to be started by space heaters on January 9, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 20, 2014 4:01PM
HAMMOND — The Hammond Police and Code Enforcement departments are joining an investigation to decide what, if any, charges will be sought in the wake of the deaths of three children from a fatal fire Wednesday night.
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller confirmed his department will help the Fire Department in its ongoing investigation into the fire that killed Dasani Young, 4; Alexia Young, 3; and Jaden Young, 7 months. The departments will meet with City Attorney Kristina Kantar this week, possibly as soon as Monday.
“This is a horrific situation, and we want to determine how it happened and obviously prevent other occurrences,” Miller said. “Right now, though, it’s a little early to tell where the investigation will take us.”
Hammond city officials said the lower unit of the house where the Young family lived lacked electrical service, running water and gas for at least six months. A court hearing was scheduled on the code violations for Jan. 16.
Stephanie Pittman of Hammond, grandmother of the children, told the Post-Tribune Sunday that the Indiana Department of Child Services placed Isaiah Sammon, 6, and Evian Young, 2, in foster care with a family acquaintance. The children were released from John R. Stroger Hospital in Chicago Saturday night.
Court records show the children’s mother, Michele Young, has a previous child-neglect conviction stemming from a 2011 case when she left a 3-year-old child home alone at a different Hammond home.
The landlord called police and Young arrived home a short time later, saying she went to pick up her husband at work and didn’t want to wake the child.
Young pleaded guilty to felony child neglect and was sentenced to 18 months, but court records show the sentence was suspended in favor of probation.
Pittman, who said she’s originally from California said she has a court date on Tuesday to gain custody of Isaiah and Evian. She said that Michele, 29, would live with her as well, “until she gets back on her feet.”
The children’s father, Andre Young, 28, suffered third-degree burns trying to rescue them from the blaze, which Hammond fire officials think was caused by a propane-fueled space heater in the home. The utilities had been cut off in the house since October.
When firefighters arrived, they found Andre Young in the snow with the two surviving children. Chief Fire Investigator Michael Opinker said the front and side doors of the home were blocked by clothes, furniture and other debris.
Pittman disputed earlier reports that her daughter wasn’t home when the fire occurred; she said her daughter was at the back door and Andre Young tried to hand a child to her.
The three children trapped in the house suffered burns and died less than two hours after firefighters arrived at the home.
Pittman described Andre Young’s condition Sunday as “pretty much the same.” She said he’s on a heart monitor and unable to speak because of a tube in his throat.
Pittman said her daughter met Andre Young about six years ago, when they worked together at a Walmart store in Lansing, Ill. She said they’ve been married for about four years and that Michele is a stay-at-home mother and Andre Young worked in seasonal landscaping.
Pittman said the funerals for the three children will be private.
Post-Tribune reporter Carole Carlson contributed to this story.