RAYNE - Four unattended young children died when their mobile home caught fire just before midnight Saturday, April 21.
Charges against their mother was upgraded Monday from negligent homicide to second-degree murder
At 11:59 p.m. firefighters from the Rayne Fire Volunteer Department and Rayne police were dispatched to a residential fire at 1506A Edith Street. Upon their arrival, the mobile home was found engulfed in flames.
Several neighbors tired to enter the trailer to rescue the children, but were driven back by the heat.
A neighbor described the blaze as intense, with flames rising above the trees. Firefighters remained on the scene about three hours.
After extinguishing the fire, firefighters discovered four of the home’s young occupants had not escaped the fire. The bodies of three of the children were discovered at the bacl door and one was found in a rear bedroom, according to Fire Chief Barry Granger.
Granger reported a chain was hooked on the front door but the door was unlocked.
The four children were identified as Jamari McDade, 8; Amous Mouton, Jr., 7; LaShay McDade, 5; and Brian Steiner, 2;
Their remains were recovered and released to the Acadia Parish Coroner’s Office.
A fifth child in the family, Tyron, was staying with relatives and escaped the fate of his siblings.
After detectives with the Rayne Police Department conducted an interview with the children’s mother they determined the children had been left unattended.
The mother, 26 year old Shaqueta McDade, was intially charged with four counts of negligent homicide and booked in the Acadia Parish Prison. On Monday afternoon, Police Chief Carroll Stelly announces charges had been upgraded to second-degree murder.
Rayne Fire Chief Barry Granger requested assistance from State Fire Marshal investigators to determine the origin and cause of the fire.
The fire caused structural failure and the roof of the mobile home had to be stabilized and partially removed before the investigation could proceed.
Three State Fire Marshal investigators responded to the fire scene with the forst investigator arriving within an hour.
Based on the fire patterns observed, investigators determined the fire originated in the living room area of the home. Due to the severe damage caused by the fire, accidental causes for the fire were unable to be ruled out, and the cause is being classified as undetermined at this time.
Grief counselors were to be at Central Rayne Kindergarten and Martin Petitjean Elementary School on Monday, reported Acadia Parish School Superintendent John Bourque
Two of the children who died in a house fire over the weekend were fondly remembered at school Monday.
Lashay McDade, 5, was a student at Central Rayne Elementary and is remembered as always having a smile on her face and was a wonderful student, said the principal.
Amous Mouton Jr., 7, was a student at Martin Petitjean Elementary and was nicknamed “Famous Amous,” and his principal last year at Central Rayne said he was a ball of energy and always brightened up everyone’s day.
Jamari McDade was a student at Martin Petitjean and the principal had no comment.
The Acadia Parish Cornoer’s Office assisted in the investigation which is continuing.
Funeral arrangements are pending at Wilturner Funeral Home.