Grand jury indicts mother whose 2 sons died in house fire
Orgal Paulette Opata (Photo courtesy of the Mecklenburg County Jail)
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte woman who has been charged with child abuse and murder after two of her four children died in a house fire last month was indicted on Monday.
Orgal Opata, 26, was indicted by the Grand Jury for Murder (2 Counts), Exposing Children to Fire (4 Counts), Felony Child Abuse (3 Counts) and Arson-Injury to a Firefighter.
She is being held at the Mecklenburg County Jail.
The house fire at 920 Rowan Street in west Charlotte killed two of Opata's children on Sunday, February 28, around 6 a.m.
Investigators said the fire was accidental and that it was sparked by a kerosene heater.
According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Opata left her children home alone on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Josiah Hawthorne, 2, and his brother, one-year old Gabriel, died in the fire. Miracle, 7, and Elijah, 4, survived.
"I've got five little ones and just seeing that sight this morning made me embrace my kids even more," said William Smith who lives on the street where the fire occurred.
Neighbor Elizabeth Lane said she woke up on the morning the fire occurred and heard Opata's oldest child, Miracle, screaming for help from her front porch. The house was already on fire.
"She told me her two little brothers were in there, which I knew because the flames were so big I couldn't make it to the bedroom to get those two out," said Lane.
Lane was able to rescue Miracle and Elijah. However, the two youngest boys could not be saved.
When their father stopped by to see the burned home later that day, he held pictures of the children while tears streamed down his face. Neighbors said he did not live in the house with the children's mother.
Johnny Smith is a neighbor and he occasionally babysat Josiah.
"He was a pretty little boy, big-eyed boy," said Smith.
He wasn't surprised when he learned the children were left alone.
"They always leave them, this is not the first time that I know of that they [leftt] them by themselves," said Smith.
In October of 2009, CMPD charged Opata with child neglect after a stranger found her 2-year-old wandering in the street with just a diaper and t-shirt on. When police arrived at the house, they found a 4-year-old outside, and another baby face down on a bed with a dirty diaper. Court papers show that Opata told police she'd only been gone a few minutes to pick up her oldest child from school.
According to records with the N.C. Department of Corrections, Opata spent six months in jail for stealing in 2001 in Guilford County. She was also sentenced to three years probation for possession of marijuana in 2007.
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