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Woman sentenced to 5 years in prison for leaving toddlers in deadly fire

Britany Meakes / phofrom Cook County Sheriff's office

Britany Meakes / photo from Cook County Sheriff's office

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The aunt of two children killed in a West Englewood fire last winter was sentenced to 5 years in prison Friday after she admitted she left them home to go to a party.

Britany Meakens, 22, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of child endangerment before she was sentenced by Judge Diane Cannon, according to Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton.

Also charged in the case is Tatiana Meakens, Britany Meakens’ sister and the mother of Javaris Meakens, 2, and his 3-year-old sister, Jariyah, who were killed in the Dec. 22, 2012, fire in their apartment in the 6400 block of South Paulina, according to authorities.

Autopsies determined both died from carbon-monoxide intoxication and inhalation of smoke and soot, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said.

Prosecutors said there was no adult supervision when the fire erupted about 3:35 a.m. on that Saturday night. A hot plate being used for heat in the apartment may have sparked the blaze on one of the coldest nights of the winter, authorities said at the time. The heat had been cut off in the apartment.

Firefighters arrived to find flames shooting from a side bedroom window on the first floor of the building, where Javaris and Jariyah were trapped, authorities said. Crews sawed off the bars from a basement window trying to rescue the children, but it was too late.

Two other boys — Darnell, 7, and Marquis, 4 — were rescued from the burning building by a relative and were taken into the custody of DCFS.

At a bond hearing on Dec. 23, 2012, prosecutors said the women left the children alone while they attended separate parties. The women had agreed Tatiana Meakens would watch the children so their mother could attend a party.

But after receiving a phone call, Tatiana Meakens left for another party, court records show. She called her sister to say she was leaving, then left although Britany Meakens asked her not to. She returned home after several hours after being told the apartment was on fire, prosecutors said.

Tatiana Meakens, 23, is due back in court Aug. 1, Simonton said.

She has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of child endangerment and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the health of a child.

Tatiana Meakens remains in the Cook County Jail.

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