Grandmother seeks custody of kids who survived Hammond fire
By Carole Carlson Sun-Times Media January 12, 2014 9:12PM
A memorial of stuffed animals continues to grow outside the burned-out home in Hammond where three children died after a fire Jan. 8. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune
Updated: February 14, 2014 6:31AM
HAMMOND — The grandmother of three young children who died in a fire Wednesday night said the two surviving children have been placed in foster care.
Stephanie Pittman, the mother of Michele Young, who lived with her husband, Andre Young, and five children at 644 Sibley St., said on Sunday she plans to go to court to gain custody.
Court records show Michele Young has a previous child-neglect conviction, stemming from a 2011 case when she left a 3-year-old child home alone at a different Hammond home.
Pittman said the children, Isaiah Sammon, 6, and Evian Young, 2, were staying in foster care with an acquaintance of the family.
Andre Young, 27, suffered third-degree burns in the blaze, which Hammond fire officials think was caused by a propane-fueled space heater in the home, where the utilities were not in use.
Dasani, 4; Alexia, 3, and their 7-month-old brother, Jayden Young, suffered burns and died less than two hours after firefighters arrived at the home.
Pittman, of Hammond, described Andre Young’s condition Sunday as “pretty much the same.” She said he’s on a heart monitor and was unable to speak because of a tube in his throat.
Pittman said she has a court date on Tuesday to gain custody of Isaiah and Evian. She said that Michele, 29, would live with her as well, “until she gets back on her feet.” She said Isaiah attends Irving Elementary in Hammond.
Pittman said her daughter met Andre Young about six years ago, when they worked together at a Walmart store in Lansing, Ill. She said they’ve been married for about four years.
Pittman disputed earlier reports about the fire, saying that her daughter was home when the fire started about 10:30 p.m.
When firefighters arrived, they found Andre Young in the snow with the two surviving children. Chief Fire Inspector Michael Opinker said the front and side doors of the home were blocked by clothes, furniture and other debris.
Pittman said her daughter was at the back door and Andre Young tried to hand a child to her.
Michele Young was charged with child neglect in 2011 after a landlord came to a Hammond home on Summer Street and found a 3-year-old child home alone. The landlord called police and Young arrived home a short time later, saying she to go pick up her husband at work and didn’t want to wake the child.
Young pleaded guilty to felony child neglect and was sentenced to 18 months, but court records show the sentence was suspended in favor of probation. After Young missed a mandatory hearing, the Lake County Prosecutor’s office filed a petition to revoke the probation. That petition was later withdrawn.
Pittman said her daughter is a stay-at-home mother and that Andre Young worked in seasonal landscaping. Pittman said she’s from California and moved to Hammond in 1996.
Hammond city officials said the lower unit of the house where the Young family lived lacked electrical service, running water and gas for at least six months. A court hearing was scheduled on the code violations for Jan. 16.
Pittman said the funerals for the three children will be private.