Local News

DA Will Not File Charges Against Mother Of Children Killed In Fire

Posted July 24, 2003 6:12 a.m. EDT

— She lost five children and one grandchild in a horrible fire earlier this month. Thursday, Mary Alice Turner found out she will not be charged in the tragic accident that tore her family apart.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said that he will not bring criminal charges against Turner following an investigation of the fire.

Hudson said there was not enough evidence to prove that the fire was intentionally set or to prove the criminal negligence required to convict a person of involuntary manslaughter.

Investigators have ruled the fire an accident, started by one of Turner's children when he was lighting a candle.

Amanda Oates, 15; Lamont Oates II, 14; Dorene Oates, 13; Quanita Oates, 12; and Angela Turner and Diamond Turner, each 2 months old, died in the fire. Angela Turner was the daughter of Amanda Oates.

On Thursday, 9-year-old Lauren Turner and 6-year-old Latasha Oates remained in critical condition at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, while 7-year-old Sharetha Oates and 8-year-old Anthony Oates were in fair condition.

Neighbors told investigators that Mary Alice Turner "is a good mother who cares very much for her children," Hudson said.

She was arrested July 14 on eight counts of forgery and uttering unrelated to the fire. She is out of jail on bond.

Hudson said Turner spends a lot of time at the Burn Center, where she goes from room to room visiting her four children.

The doctors, according to Hudson, are not sure if the remaing children will survive because of the severe smoke inhalation they suffered.

As for the 11-year-old son who set the fire, Hudson said he is mildly mentally challenged and is receving psychiatric help in Chapel Hill.

In recounting the night of the fire, Hudson said that shortly after 1 a.m. on July 9, deputies from the Onslow County Sheriff's Office were called to a structure fire at 551 Coyote Circle. Turner, her 10 children and one grandchild lived in the trailer.

After arriving at the scene, according to Hudson, firefighters and neighbors tried to help the children trapped inside. They broke out windows in attempts to get to the children, but the fire was too hot to allow any immediate entry through the windows.

Hudson said Turner's son admited to accidentally causing the fire while lighting a candle and tried to run to his mother's bedroom to warn her. He could not get to her due to the fire, ran outside and knocked on her bedroom window.

According to Hudson, Turner ran to her bedroom door to get her children. The heat, smoke and vapors from the fire were so intense that she could not get through her bedroom door. She closed the door and ran over to the bedroom window and broke the double-paned glass with her hands.

Turner yelled for her children in the bedroom. But they could not see each other due to the smoke and vapors. She climbed through the window, sustaining severe cuts as she pulled her way through the glass. She told her 11-year-old son to run and get help, which he did.

Once outside the trailer, Turner and her son attempted to awaken a nearby neighbor. Then she went about 300 to 400 yards to the home of a friend, Teresa Flores. When Flores saw the severity of Turner's cuts, she immediately took her to Onslow Memorial hospital.

With Turner at the hospital, there was no adult at the fire scene to immediately inform emergency medical workers how many children were in the trailer or where they were. Eventually, with the help of neighbors, firefighters were able to determine who was in the trailer, go into the trailer and bring the children outside.

Hudson said Turner's action in breaking the window and calling for her children may have saved the lives of the four children who survived, all of whom were rescued from her bedroom.