COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The mother of four South Carolina children killed in an accidental mobile home fire was charged Friday in their deaths, authorities said.
Hope Hawkins, 21, faces four counts each of homicide by child abuse and unlawful conduct toward a child, Darlington County Sheriff's Capt. Andy Locklair said. State and local authorities found no signs of arson and think the fire started Wednesday by accident in the kitchen, though exactly what sparked the blaze had not been determined.
Hawkins was not home when firefighters arrived, and showed up moments later, Locklair said. The woman has given conflicting stories about where she was. No one else was in the home at the time.
"It's almost like she may have arrived at the same time as the fire apparatus," Locklair said.
Locklair didn't know if Hawkins had an attorney. She is scheduled to have a bond hearing later Friday.
It took firefighters less than 10 minutes to put out the fire in Hartsville, a city of some 8,000 people that's about 60 miles east of the state capital of Columbia.
Authorities said 10-month-old sisters Myasia and Kynasia Hawkins and their brothers, 2-year-old Camaron Mason and 4-year-old Delonta Dixon, died of smoke inhalation. All four children were found in a bedroom next to the kitchen, Locklair said.
Hawkins could face life in prison if she's convicted of homicide by child abuse, a charge that stems from leaving the children at home alone. The unlawful conduct toward a child charges carry possible sentences of up to 10 years each.
Authorities were still going through records to determine if either law enforcement or social services officials had been called to the home before, Locklair said.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP