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Mother of twins who died in North Braddock fire charged with involuntary manslaughter

| Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 7:28 p.m.
A house fire in North Braddock on Jan. 4, 2013, claimed the lives of 3-year-old twins Ky'Heir (left) and Dy'Heir Arthur.
Jasmine Goldband
Dalawna Berran-Lett of North Braddock, the mother of twin boys who died in a house fire, is led out of Allegheny County police headquarters in handcuffs after she turned herself in on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2013. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

A North Braddock woman admitted leaving her twins home alone for at least 20 minutes in late December before returning to find smoke coming out of the kitchen because the boys tried to cook ribs, Allegheny County police say.

Dalawna Berran-Lett, 32, made it home in time on that occasion, but she was too late when she left the 3-year-old boys — Ky'Heir D. Arthur and Dy'Heir Arthur — alone on Jan. 4 and returned to find they had died when the house caught fire, probably while they were cooking, authorities say.Berran-Lett, 32, was accompanied by her attorney, R. Blaine Jones II, when she surrendered at Allegheny County Police headquarters shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children for the fatal fire.

She was awaiting arraignment in Night Court.

“I just received a copy of the criminal complaint and will have the opportunity to review the legal aspects of the case while allowing her to take the opportunity to try to heal,” Jones said. “She is in the state of complete shock. She just buried her babies on Saturday.”

Investigators have said that Dy'Heir — who died of burns and smoke inhalation — was found in the kitchen, and Ky'Heir — who died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning — was found in a second-floor bedroom.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said last week the boys died in a grease fire.

According to the criminal complaint:

County detective Steve Hitchings learned that approximately two weeks before the fatal fire, Berran-Lett left the boys home alone and returned to find the house filled with smoke.

Berran-Lett told Hitchings that she needed to buy rolling paper to smoke marijuana and was gone for 20 to 30 minutes. She returned to find the twins watching television. She said they got a rack of ribs out of the freezer, placed them on the stove, turned on the burner and attempted to cook them.

She said on the day of the fatal fire, she suspected her 15-year-old daughter, who did not return home from school, had stolen her marijuana and a key. She told Hitchings she locked the boys inside the home and left at 2:45 p.m. to find the girl and get the marijuana. A passer-by spotted the fire about 3:30 p.m. and called 911.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or mhasch@tribweb.com.

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