Family Believes Gary Fire Was Set Intentionally

CHICAGO (CBS) – New details have been released on what may have caused a fire that took the lives of three young children in Gary, Indiana.

CBS 2’s Sandra Torres spoke with the children’s grandmother, agonizing about her tragic loss.

For Yolanda Mitchell, there is no greater pain than to lose her grandchildren before Christmas.

“I hurt. My heat is squeezed,” said Mitchell. “One of them had said can we open gifts, and I said no, but now I wish I would’ve let them open up their gifts.”

Five-year-old Jayden Mitchel, his four-year-old sister Alaya Pickens and their two-year-old cousin Yaleah Cohen were killed in a fire in an apartment complex in Gary, Indiana on Friday night.

Three young children die in Gary apartment fire (Family Photo provided)

Three young children die in Gary apartment fire (Family Photo provided)

When asked, what Mitchell’s daughter remembers about the incident, Mitchell said, “she grabbed her son’s hand and he broke loose and said ‘I have to go save my sister and my cousin’ and he got lost in the fire.”

Mitchell always told Jayden to be there and protect them, “and that is what he did. He saved his baby sister,” Mitchell said.

The children’s mother was able to escape unharmed with her one-year-old daughter. Her husband remains hospitalized.

The family believes the fire was set intentionally.

“From my understanding, it was a cocktail thrown through the window and the flames spread really fast,” Mitchell said.

And while the family copes with the tragic loss, they are asking those responsible to come forward.

“Turn yourself in,” Mitchell said. “You took three beautiful grandchildren from me, that I’ll never get a chance to see grow up.”

Gary Police and fire officials have not confirmed the family’s claims. They say no update will be provided until the state fire Marshall concludes their investigation.

Mitchell also told CBS 2, her son-in-law remains in a coma. The name of the hospital where he is being treated is not being disclosed in order to protect him, given the arson allegations being made.

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