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Mother charged in house fire deaths of her 5 children

An Illinois mother was charged in the deaths of her five children on Wednesday after she allegedly left them unattended and they died in a house fire.

Sabrina Dunigan, 34, was said to have left their apartment to pick up her boyfriend from work when the fire broke out on her birthday on August 6 at around 3am.

Her children were identified as Deontae Davis, nine, twins Heaven and Neveah Dunigan, eight, Jabari Johnson, four, and Loy-el Dunigan, two.  

She was charged with five felony counts of endangering the life of a child resulting in death.

The cause of the fire, however, has still not been determined.    

Illinois mother Sabrina Dunigan, 34, was charged in the deaths of her five children on Wednesday

Dunigan's children Heaven, seven, (top left) and twin sister Neveah (bottom left), Jabari Johnson, four (center), Deontae Davis, nine, (bottom right) and Loy-el Duncan, two, (top right) died on the night of the fire

Dunigan’s children Heaven, seven, (top left) and twin sister Neveah (bottom left), Jabari Johnson, four (center), Deontae Davis, nine, (bottom right) and Loy-el Duncan, two, (top right) died on the night of the fire

The fire broke out at the East St Louis apartment building on August 6 at around 3 am

Dunigan saw her home engulfed in flames after she returned from her early morning errand. 

She had unsuccessfully attempted to run back into the home to save them and had reportedly suffered from burns as a result. 

Crews from the East St Louis Fire Department found two of the children dead inside a bedroom and the other three unconscious on the kitchen floor. 

Two of them died while being rushed outside by fire crews and the other child Neveah died on the way to the hospital of smoke inhalation.

‘They are blameless in this. They’re just kids. It’s tough,’ Assistant Fire Chief George McClellan of the East St. Louis Fire Department told KMOV-TV. 

Dunigan had lived in the apartment with her children for only five months. The home was split in half with her father and his wife in the back of the home and Dunigan with her children in the front

Dunigan had lived in the apartment with her children for only five months. The home was split in half with her father and his wife in the back of the home and Dunigan with her children in the front

Dunigan is pictured with two of her children, Heaven and Deontae

Dunigan is pictured with two of her children, Heaven and Deontae

Dunigan is pictured with her son Jabari before his tragic death

Dunigan is pictured with her son Jabari before his tragic death

Cemetery workers prepare to cover the caskets of the five children at Sunset Gardens of Memory Cemetery in Millstadt, Illinois on August 21

Cemetery workers prepare to cover the caskets of the five children at Sunset Gardens of Memory Cemetery in Millstadt, Illinois on August 21

The apartment the family lived in was divided into two parts with Sabrina and her children living in the front of the home with her father Greg and his wife Vanicia Moseley living in the back. 

Greg Dunigan and his wife, who is blind, had jumped off the back of the unit after he had smelled smoke.

The couple were reportedly supposed to be watching Dunigan’s children but had fallen asleep. 

Moseley’s sister Shontice told the St Louis Dispatch that the couple did not return to save the children as the fire was too strong in the front part of the home.

The other residents in the building also escaped unharmed.  

Dunigan slammed the charges, telling the Post-Dispatch: ‘Why are they trying to do this to her? She done lost all she can lose already.

‘Why they want to take the rest away, meaning herself? She don’t have nothing left.’

Duwanna Davis waits to leave a teddy bear donated by seven-year-old Malaya Cannon in memory of the five children that died in the apartment

Duwanna Davis waits to leave a teddy bear donated by seven-year-old Malaya Cannon in memory of the five children that died in the apartment 

Stuffed animals and balloons were left on the steps of the building in memory of the five children

Stuffed animals and balloons were left on the steps of the building in memory of the five children

Deontae Davis, Sr. is hugged as Elder Carolyn Rice-Smith, (right), supports Sabrina Dunigan at the end of burial services for their children at Sunset Gardens of Memory on August 21

Deontae Davis, Sr. is hugged as Elder Carolyn Rice-Smith, (right), supports Sabrina Dunigan at the end of burial services for their children at Sunset Gardens of Memory on August 21

Rudy McIntosh, the building landlord, also spoke out about the fire on Thursday.

‘The bottom line is she left her babies at home with something burning and set the building on fire,’ Rudy McIntosh told Fox2Now.

Although not confirmed as the cause, McIntosh claims that Dunigan had told him she had left a candle burning in the apartment at the time of the fire and that the children may have started it. 

McIntosh also said that the lease agreement stated she had two children even though she had five.

Dunigan and her children had also experienced another house fire in 2019 when living in property in Shiloh that was owned by McIntosh.   

She claimed that the fire had been set by her former boyfriend.  

Building owner Rudy McIntosh said that Dunigan told him a candle was lit in the home at the time of the fire and that her children may have caused it

Building owner Rudy McIntosh said that Dunigan told him a candle was lit in the home at the time of the fire and that her children may have caused it 

McIntosh said that smoke detectors were already installed in the building on the night of the fire

McIntosh said that smoke detectors were already installed in the building on the night of the fire


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