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Woman rejects plea proposal in fatal fire

| Friday, May 23, 2003

UNIONTOWN - Margie Povlik still denies she is to blame for the tragic fire two years ago that took the lives of her son and two other children.

Povlik, 31, of Connellsville, rejected an offer Thursday by the Fayette County District Attorney's office to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Povlik will now take her chances in Fayette County Court.

She will go to trial on three counts each of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of children.

Povlik, who is currently in the Fayette County Jail, and her cousin, Billie Jo Ohler, 22, of 48 Railroad St., Dunbar, were charged with leaving the children unattended at Povlik's Marion Villa apartment in Arnold City on the morning of Dec. 14, 2001.

A short time after they left the apartment, the unit caught fire.

Povlik's son, 3-year-old Tomas, and Ohler's two children, 8-month-old Rebecca Ohler and 2-year-old Gerald Younkin III, died from injuries they suffered in the fire.

Ohler faces the same charges as Povlik.

Ohler, who is currently out of jail on bond, has not yet been extended the same plea offer by the District Attorney Nancy Vernon.

In February, Vernon recommended criminal charges be filed against them, based on an emotional coroner's jury hearing on May 30, 2002.

The jury recommended the women be charged in the children's deaths.

At the inquest, Ohler and Povlik lunged at one another and had to be handcuffed.

Each blamed the other for the children's deaths.

The cause of the fire was never determined, but investigators believe the women were at fault because they children were alone.

The women contend, however, that Ohler's brother, Shane Shipley, then 13, awake and watching television when they left the apartment to visit a neighbor.

Shipley said he was sleeping, however, when the fire broke out, and had to jump from a second-floor window.

If convicted of the charges, Povlik and Ohler could face a maximum of five to 10 years in prison per child, or 15 to 30 years total.

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