Second fire victim dies

November 18, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A second child who was injured in a fire Saturday night on Liberty Street in Martinsburg died early Wednesday, according to a spokeswoman for Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

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Mason Howard, 4, was pronounced dead at the hospital at about 12:08 a.m., hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Haas said.

His sister, Brandi Howard, 3, remained in critical condition Wednesday, Haas said.

Brandi Howard's twin brother, Corey, died Saturday night from smoke inhalation and complications from a Saturday morning fire at their 211 E. Liberty St. house.

Their mother, Sara Howard, escaped the fire uninjured by climbing out on a roof, where she screamed for someone to help her children.


Martinsburg City Police are investigating the fire as a possible arson, said Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely.

Martinsburg City Police Detective George Swartwood said he drove to Children's National Medical Center Tuesday to interview members of the children's family. Swartwood would not say what he learned through the interviews.

Games-Neely said she plans to look into pushing the Legislature to change a state law that gives the state Department of Health and Human Resources final say over child-neglect cases. She said he department did not remove the children from their mother's custody in June when she was charged with child neglect.

Kathy Boylan, community service manager for the local Department of Health and Human Resources office, would not comment Wednesday.

"I have nothing to comment on," Boylan said.

Ann Garcelon, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Resources in Charleston, W.Va., also would not comment. Those involved in child abuse or neglect complaints are directed by law not to discuss the cases, Garcelon said.

All records pertaining to such cases are sealed, Garcelon said.

Howard, 37, was charged June 1 with child neglect after Brandi Howard, then 2, was found wearing only a diaper in the 800 block of Winchester Avenue, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records. At that time, the family lived at 735 Winchester Ave.

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