4 children’s deaths shock neighbors
RAYNE — A 26-year-old mother’s “gross negligence” led authorities to arrest her Monday on four counts of second-degree murder after a Saturday night fire killed four of her children who were left unattended in a mobile home, authorities said Monday.
The 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed the murder charges against Shaqueta McDade on Monday after prosecutors determined the mother had shown gross negligence when she left her children unattended, Rayne Police Chief Carroll Stelly said.
McDade was initially taken into custody after she arrived at the fire Saturday, and she was arrested Sunday on counts of negligent homicide, Stelly said.
Stelly identified McDade’s children as Brian Stiener Jr., 2, Lashay McDade, 5, Amous Mouton Jr., 7, and Jamari McDade, 8.
“The investigation is still ongoing to determine exactly where the mother was at the time of the trailer fire,” Stelly said.
Neighbor Crystal Miller said Monday this was not the first time the mother left her children home alone.
“To know that these four babies, as young as they were, had to lose their life because of their mother being irresponsible and putting her own needs before them is horrible,” Miller said.
Miller lives about four houses down from McDade’s mobile home. She said she moved back to the neighborhood about four months ago.
She said she knew the children well but admits to keeping her distance from McDade. The two of them had a disagreement after Miller called the police to report an after-school fight between her children and McDade’s, Miller said.
Stelly said officers responded to that call Thursday and found McDade’s children home alone. The children were brought back to the police station and were later released to their mother after McDade and the children’s grandmother explained that the children were left alone because of a misunderstanding between the two of them.
“Usually the grandmother is there to pick up the kids,” Stelly said, adding that the mother was told that the Department of Children and Family Services would be contacted if the department received any further complaints.
Stelly said he sent investigators back out to the area Monday to interview residents about allegations of other incidents involving McDade.
The department has contacted social services about McDade’s surviving 10-year-old son, who spent the night of the fire at his grandmother’s house, he said.
“This is kind of tough to talk about,” Stelly said. “It’s tough to go out there after 30 years on the job and have to see such a tragedy involving four innocent children.”
The four children “played with our children, ate in our homes and spent the night with my children,” Miller said. “To have to wake up each morning and not see them running home to the bus stop or running home to play with the kids after school — it’s hard to swallow.”
Meanwhile, the state Fire Marshal’s Office continued to investigate the cause of the fire, which has been difficult to determine due to the structural damage of the home, said Capt. Doug Cain, public affairs commander of the Department of Public Safety.
Investigators determined that the back door of the mobile home was locked with a safety chain at the time of the fire, Stelly said.
Investigators have been unable to determine whether the front door was locked, Stelly said.
At the mobile home Monday, Charlotte Stiener, grandmother to the two youngest children, directed her outrage at law enforcement officials who she said prevented her son from saving his nieces and nephews from the fire.
“He was willing to risk his life in order to get his nieces and nephews out of there,” she said.
Stiener said she wanted to know why he wasn’t allowed to do so.
“Why? That’s what I want to know,” Stiener said.
A candlelight memorial will be held in front of the children’s home at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Will Turner Funeral Home in Crowley will handle funeral services, Stelly said.