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Felony neglect charges filed in fire deaths

January 13, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A criminal complaint charging a Martinsburg mother with three counts of felony child neglect in a fire that claimed the lives of her three children was filed Thursday in Berkeley County Magistrate Court.

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The criminal complaint filed in Magistrate Sandy Miller's office charges Sara Louise Howard with three counts of felony child neglect resulting in death, said Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely.

Martinsburg Police Detective George Swartwood has a warrant for Howard, but she had not been arrested as of Thursday afternoon, Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely said she and investigators decided to give Howard 24 hours to voluntarily turn herself in to police.

Swartwood was going through some of the last addresses he had for Howard in an attempt to reach her Thursday afternoon, Games-Neely said.

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Howard has been staying with relatives in Pennsylvania, Games-Neely said.

If Howard does not turn herself in, investigators will consider other alternatives, such as starting extradition proceedings, Games-Neely said.

On Tuesday, Games-Neely said she had ordered Martinsburg police to issue arrest warrants for Howard, 37.

Games-Neely alleged that the woman passed by her sleeping 3-year-old fraternal twins to escape a house fire at 211 E. Liberty St. last November.

Corey Howard, 3, died the night of the fire from smoke inhalation and complications from the heat of the fire. His older brother Mason, 4, died Nov. 17, and Corey's twin sister, Brandi, died Nov. 18.

The fire has been ruled an arson, although Games-Neely said investigators were not able to gather enough evidence to pursue an arson charge.

It is believed the fire started in an upholstered chair in the living room on the first floor, Games-Neely said.

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