Grandpa took mom to work and left young kids alone before deadly fire, NC cops say
A grandfather took a mom to work, leaving young kids alone in a North Carolina home when it went up in flames, officials said.
The children — ages 2 and 3 — were pronounced dead after the fire ripped through the house on Jan. 13, Rutherford County Fire Marshal Frankie Hamrick told McClatchy News at the time.
Now, more than two weeks after the deadly blaze, the children’s mother and grandfather have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office in a Jan. 31 news release didn’t list attorney information for the two, identified as Jontae Nichelle Littlejohn and John Randolph Littlejohn, respectively.
“Investigators found that John Littlejohn would take Jontae to work at Zaxby’s in the mornings, and the children were often left at the residence, until John Littlejohn returned,” deputies wrote. “This particular morning was no different.”
Firefighters responded at about 10 a.m. on Jan. 13 to a home on Bostic Sunshine Highway. While at the scene, crews reported seeing smoke.
“While the primary search was underway an occupant of the house returned home and advised fire crews that his grandkids were in the back bedroom,” Rutherford County officials said at the time of the blaze.
Firefighters reportedly found the toddlers and performed CPR. The kids were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The children were identified as 3-year-old Niya Littlejohn and her brother, 2-year-old Nasir Littlejohn.
“They had the biggest hearts, the cutest smiles,” Amber Suttle, a family friend, told WSPA earlier this month. “They were just the best kids. We’re heartbroken at this point.”
The sheriff’s office said the young brother and sister died after a fire started near a living room couch, though the cause of the blaze was still under investigation as of Jan. 31.
A grand jury indicted the children’s mother and grandfather “for involuntary manslaughter” and felony child abuse.
Rutherford County is roughly 70 miles west of Charlotte.
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