Carelessness with cigarette butts is believed to have been the cause of a fatal Arvada fire that claimed three lives, according to Feb. 14 grand jury indictment from the 1st Judicial District.
The two women believed to have been smoking those cigarettes have been charged with criminally negligent homicide following a Jefferson County grand jury investigation that began in early December.
Mary “Liz” Turner, 32, and Shana “Dee” Moore, 47, also face charges of negligent child abuse resulting in death and criminal negligence resulting in serious bodily injury and death of an at-risk adult.
According to the indictment, on May 13, 2016, Turner and Moore, both host providers for a home for disabled adults, were smoking cigarettes on the front porch of their residence at 6152 Robb St. in Arvada. The home was owned by Parker Personal Care Homes, which employed Turner and Moore to care for two disabled clients living in the home. Moore’s daughter and granddaughter were also visiting overnight that evening.
It is alleged that the women extinguished their cigarettes and placed them in an empty cigarette box in a drawer in a bamboo table on the porch. The cigarette butts smoldered, then ignited, causing a fire on the front porch, the indictment said. The fire spread to the rest of the home.
The Arvada Fire Department and Arvada Police Department responded to the house and attempted to extinguish the fire and rescue the occupants. However, two adult women, and Moore's 4-year-old granddaughter, did not survive. Tanya Bell, one of the victims, was a disabled resident of the home. The other adult victim was Cristina Covington, who was Moore's daughter and who died days later in the hospital.
The fire was initially investigated by Arvada Fire, before being referred to the Jefferson and Gilpin County DA's office, which eventually sent it to the grand jury. In Jefferson County, 12-member grand juries can be used to investigate, and charge criminal violations. A grand jury can obtain records not generally available to prosecutors in other investigations, and can also require reluctant witnesses to testify before the group.
“This matter was presented to the grand jury because we thought it was appropriate to review all the events and circumstances surrounding this tragic incident,” said District Attorney Pete Weir, adding that at this time the indictment are allegations and neither Moore or Turner have been found guilty.
In August, the Arvada Press published an investigative report on fire safety codes that found the Robb Street house was not in violation of the city’s building, safety and fire codes, but that stricter versions of those codes might have helped make the house safer.
According to dispatch recordings from that night, two fire survivors were trying to squeeze through a basement window too small to qualify as an escape route. Firefighters helped pull them out. The grand jury's indictment document indicates that all three of the fire's victims were sleeping on the first floor when the fire broke out. The home's second disabled resident was also sleeping on the second floor. He was found unresponsive on the first floor by firefighters, and spent several weeks in a hospital for external burns and smoke inhalation according to the indictment.
“It’s heart-wrenching for everyone involved in this case,” Weir said. “We will pursue through the process and look for just results in this case.”
Parker Personal Care Homes was unable to be reached for comment on Thursday.
Turner and Moore have been instructed to turn themselves in to the Jefferson County jail. Bail has been set at $10,000. As of Thursday afternoon, both remained at large.