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Mother, 22, held for fiery death of her three toddlers

Jan 02,2018
Police arrested a 22-year-old mother on charges of involuntary manslaughter and negligence that led to a fire that killed her three young children in Gwangju in the early morning Sunday.

At 2:36 a.m. that day, the fire department received a report of a fire in an apartment building in Buk District, Gwangju, according to the Gwangju Bukbu Police Station. Firemen were able to extinguish the fire on the 11th floor by 2:53 a.m. and rescue the mother, who had escaped to a balcony. They could not save her three children, who were already dead by the time they arrived. The room where the children, aged 15 months, 2 and 4, were sleeping was badly burned.

The mother suffered second degree burns to her hands and feet.

On Saturday night, the mother left home around 7 p.m. for drinks with friends at a karaoke parlor. The 21-year-old father put the children to bed and left the apartment around 9:44 p.m. to go to an internet cafe. The children were left alone for four hours until the mother returned home at 1:53 a.m. The apartment’s security camera captured her drunk in the elevator and unable to walk properly.

The mother told police that she fell asleep with her 15-month-old daughter in her arms after snuffing out a cigarette on blankets, which caused the fire.

Though the woman has not been charged with arson, her testimony and behavior prior to the fire has raised the possibility that she may have deliberately started the fire.

The mother initially told police the fire probably began after she forgot to turn off the gas stove after boiling water for ramen. She changed her story after police failed to find any evidence of cooking.

Police also discovered that the woman had frequent arguments with the children’s father, whom she had divorced just four days before the fire, although they continued to live together. They usually fought over the issue of raising children, including on the night of the fire, when the woman sent her husband a cryptic message that appeared to portend her death.

After being arrested without warrant upon admitting to fire from negligence, the woman spent Sunday night in the police station. She is reported to have slept through the whole night.

BY KIM HO, HAN YOUNG-HYE AND CHOI KYUNG-HO [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]