ROGERS PARK — Three children related to 3-year-old Le'Andrea White, who was killed Wednesday in a Rogers Park apartment fire, have been removed from the home by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, officials said.
Karen Hawkins, a spokeswoman for DCFS, said Thursday evening that the children — who had been living in the home where the fire was caused after the girl played with a lighter — had been placed in the custody of a relative "under a DCFS-monitored safety plan."
"DCFS is investigating this child's mother for allegations of neglect," Hawkins said. "The investigation is pending."
Hawkins said the agency had investigated four previous allegations of neglect against the girl's mother LaSheena Weekly — three of which were deemed "indicated," meaning there was "credible evidence" the neglect took place. Another was unfounded.
The DCFS investigator has up to 60 days to complete a probe, but the case could go before a judge shortly.
Weekly said Thursday that the children removed include two of her children, the twin of Le'Andrea, and a 12-year-old girl, and her 8-month-old grandson. She said they were being sent to stay with Weekly's sister in Joliet, where she knows the kids will be safe.
She denied the allegations of neglect.
"The accusations are not true," she said.
Earlier Weekly, who was with relatives at her sister's South Side home Thursday, said her other daughter would not be happy if she was removed from Weekly's care.
"They’re really trying to wreck my family and take my babies from me," Weekly said.
Weekly said she was in her bedroom listening to music when one of her daughters alerted her to the fire, which began on a mattress in another room.
She said the mattress was propped up near the window because it was infested with bed bugs.
Family said the girl may have started the fire while playing with a lighter.
Weekly said she attempted to push the burning mattress out of the window and denied rumors she was away from the apartment at the time.
"Of course I was there," she said. "I have third-degree burns on my feet from [trying to throw] the mattress out the window."
She said her daughter must have ran away to hide in a closet and in the commotion was left inside the apartment as flames and smoke spread in the four-story apartment building in the 1700 block of West Juneway Terrace.
"The child was badly burned," Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Mark Nielsen said at the scene.
He said Le'Andrea was found on the floor near the window of a fourth-floor bedroom, where flames were heaviest. She was pronounced dead on the scene at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
Officials with DCFS interviewed the family about the incident Wednesday evening, family members said.
Weekly said she had been investigated before by DCFS when her husband, LeRoy White, and father of her twins, called the agency to complain that he wasn't getting enough visitation with his daughters.
White denied that Weekly ever harmed or neglected the children.
"I didn’t know what I was doing because I was mad at the time," White said Thursday. "I was wrong for that. She'd never hurt these kids."
White said he never wanted the children taken from their mother.
"That was my baby, man. We just lost a baby," he said. "My kids need their momma. She never did anything wrong to them. She did everything for those kids."