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Officer Says Moms Told Different Stories In Fairfield Fire Deaths

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Latisha James

Latisha James during a previous court appearance. (CBS)

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FAIRFIELD (BCN) – Two mothers whose four children died in a fire in Fairfield last April gave different accounts of what happened that day, a Fairfield police sergeant testified Tuesday morning at a preliminary hearing in Solano County Superior Court.

Sisters Latisha James, 23, and Shetarra James, 24, are charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter and child neglect. The preliminary hearing will allow a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.

Sgt. Rob Lenke testified that he interviewed both women at the NorthBay Medical Center where they were being treated for injuries after the April 28 fire at 728 Delaware St.

Lenke said Shetarra James told him the women were inside the apartment with their children when a wall heater caught fire.

Shetarra James said she and her sister panicked and ran outside for help, leaving the children, who ranged in age from 2 to 4, inside, Lenke said. She then told him the women could not get back inside because of the smoke and heat, he said.

Latisha James said she and her sister went outside the apartment to charge their phones in a laundry room because their electricity had been shut off, according to Lenke.

She told Lenke that Shetarra James told her she had blown out the candles they were using for light before she left the apartment, Lenke testified.

Latisha James said the sisters were outside for no more than 10 minutes when they saw smoke in the air, Lenke said. She said she crawled inside the apartment but burned her hand and left the apartment, according to Lenke.

Lenke testified that when he questioned Shetarra James a second time, she denied that candles were burning when the mothers left the apartment.

Shetarra James said she went back inside to check on the children and give them some sandwiches, he testified. She said the women were outside the apartment for about 30 minutes.

Fairfield police Officer Steven Trojanowski testified this morning that there were two distinct areas of flames inside the apartment – near a piece of furniture and in the vicinity of a heater.

Fire investigators said the candles sparked the fire.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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