CHICAGO — The mother and aunt of two children killed in an Englewood apartment fire left the children home alone to go to parties, prosecutors said Monday.
A lawyer for the two women charged in the childrens' deaths said her clients made "an awful mistake," but they are not "evil people."
Sisters Tatiana and Britany Meakens were ordered each held on $100,000 bond Monday in the deaths of Tatiana's two youngest children — Javaris Davis, 2, and his 3-year-old sister, Jariyah Meakens.
The children were found dead together in a bed early Saturday by firefighters after a blaze in the 6400 block of South Paulina, believed to have been caused by a hot plate heating the childrens' bedroom.
The two women are charged with two counts of causing the death of a child, a felony, and endangering the life or health of a child, a misdemeanor.
Bond was set by Cook County Circuit Judge Israel A. Desierto.
Assistant state's attorney Jamie Dickler said in court that hours before the fire, Tatiana, 23, and Britany, 22, discussed who would stay with the children overnight.
The sisters agreed that Tatiana would stay home so that Britany could go to a friend's housewarming party, Dickler said. But when Tatiana was invited to a CD release party, she left the kids with Britany, breaking her deal with her sister, Dickler said.
When the children fell asleep, Britany left to go to her party, Dickler said.
"Tatiana was made aware that Britany had left the children alone," Dickler said. "Tatiana did not return to the house for hours after she knew the children were alone, and only returned once she was made aware that the apartment was on fire."
The sisters initially told investigators that the children had been left in the care of a cousin named Brandy, Dickler said.
"The defendants do not have a cousin by the name of Brandy, and no one else had been watching the children that night," Dickler said.
The sisters later admitted to police that the children had been left home alone, Dickler said.
Marijane Placek, an attorney for the sisters, said the two women were immature but "truly not evil people."
"These are two women living in poverty," Placek said. "They just made an awful mistake."
The fire occurred about 3:20 a.m. on the first floor of a house shared by the sisters and Tatiana's four children.
The toddlers' 4- and 7-year-old brothers, Marquis and Darnell, made it out of the blaze alive and are in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
A DCFS spokesman said the agency had no contact with the family before the fire.
Placek said the sisters were forced to heat their home with a hot plate and two space heaters because their gas had been shut off.
Autopsies performed on the children showed that they died of smoke and soot inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, the Cook County medical examiner's office said.
The sisters are scheduled to return to court Jan. 14.