This is the saddest story. Those poor babies:(
HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - The mother of four children who died in a mobile home fire in Hartsville has been charged with four counts of unlawful neglect of a child and four counts of homicide by child abuse.
Those charges against Hope Hawkins were upgraded and released in a news conference Friday morning. She was arrested Thursday night and booked into the Darlington County Detention Center, said Capt. Andy Locklair with the DCSO.
During that news conference, Fire Chief Jeff Burr revealed that the investigation so far has determined that fire began in the kitchen, and has been deemed accidental though they are not sure of the exact cause.
Sheriff Wayne Byrd spoke next, saying Hope Hawkins has given conflicting answers to their question regarding her location before the fire and when it started, but it is obvious she was not home. The children were in the home alone and unprotected, the sheriff said.
At Hawkins' bond hearing on Friday, a judge set bond on the unlawful neglect charges at $20,000. Bond was not set on the homicide by child abuse charges, which carry a sentence of at least 20 years in prison each. It will not be set until Hawkins stands before a circuit court judge, Monique Blair reported from the courtroom.
During the hearing, authorities revealed Hawkins has no prior criminal record. Her public defender did ask that Hawkins be given a personal recognizance bond so she could be released from prison to attend funeral services.
The fire that claimed four young lives
The bodies of four young children were found after a fire in a Hartsville home, and the family dealing with that loss is being aided by the American Red Cross.
Capt. Locklair said the four children found dead were siblings.
The family identified the children as four-year-old Delonta Dixon, two-year-old Camaron Mason, and twin 10-month-old girls My'asia and Ky'nasia Hawkins.
"They were beautiful. Two boys, two girls. When they come around, they just light up everything," Janice Hawkins, the children's aunt said.
Hawkins expressed tremendous grief as she described the children.
"They were just some happy kids. Colorful personality. They a joy to be around. They just have a beautiful heart. They were just so loving and caring and the whole neighborhood know them and they're loved by all," Hawkins said through tears.
"It's just like a world was taken. I feel like a shell of a person because of this tragedy and anybody that loses kids, can understand," Hawkins said.
Captain Locklair said the four children lived in the mobile home, located on Depot Street in Hartsville, that was ravaged by fire Wednesday afternoon. The mother of the children was in the front yard when firefighters arrived.
The autopsies scheduled for Thursday in Newberry showed all four children died of smoke inhalation. Mayor Pennington, who is also a volunteer firefighter and was on scene, confirmed to WMBF News that the siblings were found huddling together in a closet inside the home.
"The one thing they teach firefighters is that kids hide in a fire," Mayor Pennington said. "They train you to search under beds and in closets and as it turns out they were in a closet all huddled together and hugging each other."
The Hartsville City Fire Department received a 911 call around 1:53 p.m. Wednesday, and firefighters were on the scene by 1:57 p.m., according to officials with the department. The home was 75 percent involved when crews arrived, and the fire was under control in about 10 minutes.
Seven firemen, a fire officer, two engines, and one rescue truck responded. Hartsville's Mayor Mel Pennington, a volunteer fireman, was also at the scene to assist.
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