Illinois mom arrested after her five children die in house fire

Sabrina Dunigan has been charged in connection with the deaths of all her kids on the morning of her 34th birthday.

Loading the player...

An Illinois mother has been charged with five counts of endangering the life or health of a child after all five of her children died in an apartment fire in August.

The tragedy took place on the morning of Sabrina Dunigan‘s 34th birthday.

This undated picture shows Sabrina Dunigan with two of her five children. Dunigan faces charges for the deaths of all the youngsters, aged 2 to 9, who perished after their apartment caught fire. (Photo: Screenshot/KSDK)

Loy-el Dunigan, 2; Jabari Johnson, 4; 8-year-olds twins Heaven and Neveah “Veah” Dunigan, and 9-year-old Deontae Davis perished when their home in East St. Louis, Illinois was engulfed by fire around 3 a.m. on Aug. 6. Authorities say their mom, Sabrina Dunigan, left the children unattended, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

Dunigan’s father, Greg Dunigan, maintained that he and his wife were in the same apartment. The family of eight had all been living in the one-bedroom unit together, but Mr. Dunigan and his wife stayed in a separate area in the rear. 

He said that he and his wife, who is blind, were supposed to be watching the children while his daughter went out, but they fell asleep. The couple was spared from injury when they escaped from the second-floor apartment, but they were unable to save the youngsters from the blaze. 

Sabrina Dunigan, who had gone out to pick up her boyfriend from his job, returned home to find the apartment ablaze and reportedly suffered burns when she tried to go in and save her children. Four of the kids died at the scene, and a fifth, Nevaeh, was transported to a St. Louis, Missouri hospital, where she later died. 

“Why are they trying to do this to her?” her dad asked The Post-Dispatch. “She done lost all she can lose already. Why they want to take the rest away, meaning herself? She don’t have nothing left.”

In an interview with The Post-Dispatch, Sabrina Dunigan shared that her previous home had also caught fire. She said she suspected an ex-boyfriend of starting that blaze in which no one was injured. However, she does not suspect arson in the August fire that killed her children, noting that only she and her father had keys to the home.

In the charging documents, prosecutors in St. Clair County are alleging that Sabrina “knowingly caused or permitted a child to be placed in circumstances that endangered the child’s life or health.”

Endangering the life or health of a child is a misdemeanor in Illinois, unless it is a person’s second offense or if a child dies after being put in danger. The deaths of her five children mean Sabrina Dunigan is being charged with five felonies. Each count is punishable by two to 10 years in prison. However, as in her case, a parent charged after their child dies may be sentenced to probation. 

The cause of August’s deadly fire in East St. Louis, Illinois — which is eight minutes away from St. Louis, Missouri — is still under investigation. 

Have you subscribed to theGrio podcasts “Dear Culture” or “Acting Up?” Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download today!

Loading the player...