Fairfield Mom Guilty Of Manslaughter In Children’s Fire Deaths

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Firefighters on the scene of an apartment fire in Fairfield that killed four children on April 28, 2010. (CBS)

Firefighters on the scene of an apartment fire in Fairfield that killed four children on April 28, 2010. (CBS)

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FAIRFIELD (CBS SF) — Shetarra James, the 25-year-old Fairfield woman charged with second-degree murder in the fire deaths of her three young children and niece, was found not guilty on all counts of second degree murder but guilty on four counts of involuntary manslaughter and four counts of felony child endangerment Thursday.

The verdict was handed down in a Fairfield courtroom Thursday afternoon after about a day of jury deliberations, Deputy District Attorney Karen Jensen said.

“It’s a tough case, and I can certainly see how they came to their verdict, and I think it’s an appropriate decision,” she said.

Jensen and Defense Attorney Amy Morton gave closing arguments Wednesday, painting two different pictures of the woman whose decision on April 28, 2008 to leave her three children—Robert Charles, Jr., 4, Nevaeh Nunn, 2, and Keviana Morgan, 1, and her niece, 2-year-old Natalie Rogers, in an enclosed Fairfield apartment with candles burning left all four dead.

Morton told the jury that James has a below-average IQ and suffers from cognitive disabilities that make it difficult for her to multi-task and to respond during emergency situations.

The prosecution, however, described the defendant as a competent woman with ample experience caring for children who knew better than to leave them alone for up to 30 minutes with burning candles in reach.

Jensen said James could face a maximum prison term of around 20 years and is set to be sentenced on Jan. 3.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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