Police may charge parents in deaths

2 unsupervised children died, 1 was injured in fire at West Baltimore home

January 03, 2004|By Laurie Willis and Jessica Valdez | Laurie Willis and Jessica Valdez,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police officials are considering whether to bring charges against the parents of two children who died in their West Baltimore home in a New Year's Day blaze, police officials said.

Police will consult with the city state's attorney's office on whether to charge the parents of Diamond Van Dyke, 9, and Anthony Van Dyke III, 6, who were at home without adult supervision. State property records show that the rowhouse in the 2900 block of Windsor Ave. is owned by Anthony Van Dyke Jr. and Rashunda Van Dyke.

Under Maryland law, 8 is the minimum age at which a child may be left home alone, police Deputy Maj. Paul B. Sheppard said yesterday. But the law requires that children be at least 13 if they are going to be left to care for children ages 8 and younger, he said.

Investigators confirmed yesterday that no adults were in the house at the time of the fire, said James Gardner, a spokesman for the city Fire Department. The cause of the fire is being investigated, Gardner said.

A third child in the house, Jocelyn Walker, 8, was critically injured. Her condition was upgraded to fair yesterday at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Police officers and firefighters administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the children at the scene, Sheppard said.

The parents of the victims said they had gone to a nearby convenience store when the fire began, Sheppard said.

Fire officials said they think Diamond and Anthony Van Dyke attended Gwynns Falls Elementary School and said they would tell school officials of the two deaths.

"Right now we're trying to contact school officials to make sure that on Monday they can alert the principals so there will be some stress management counselors at the school," Gardner said.

Yesterday a toy reindeer and teddy bear sat on what was the front porch of the charred rowhouse.

The reindeer was left by Joyce McNair-Gilbert, a teacher who lives nearby. She said she hopes to start a small neighborhood wave of gift-giving in memory of the Van Dyke children.

Sun staff writer Jamie Stiehm contributed to this article.

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