A 6-year-old boy started the fire that killed his four siblings and seriously injured his mother in Conyers late Tuesday night.
But officials said the boy will not face any criminal charges.
“We have had preliminary discussions with the district attorney of Rockdale County, and it’s his belief that this 6-year-old and any 6-year-old cannot form the criminal intent to be prosecuted in juvenile court,” the Rockdale County Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Morgan said.
“The take away of this is that this was a tragic event, so we want to make sure this 6-year-old gets help as soon as possible,” he said.
The results of the investigation will be forwarded to the state’s Division of Family and Children Services, so the boy can be referred for counseling and treatment, Chief Morgan said.
According to Georgia law no one can be convicted of a crime who was younger than 13 at the time of the offense. However, under the state’s juvenile code, children found to be “delinquent” or “unruly” can reportedly be placed under court supervision.
The 6-year-old was playing with a lighter in the upstairs hallway of the family’s duplex while his mother and the other children slept in two adjacent bedrooms, Chief Morgan said.
He was the only child to survive after his mother threw him to safety out of a two-story window.
Mrs. Reeba Glass attempted to rescue her other children, but failed after sustaining second and third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body, the department's spokeswoman Ms. Tonya Parker said.
Mrs. Glass remained at Grady Memorial Hospital Monday.
Killed in the fire were her children 10-year-old Ah’Dariya, 7-year-old Dar’Shawn, 3-year-old Armoni and 8-month-old Deon.
The 6-year-old boy has been staying with his father, Mr. Darnell Glass, who is separated from his mother. The boy will remain with his father for the immediate future, Chief Morgan said.
The deadly fire happened the night before the family was to leave the duplex where they have been living for about three years.
It's unclear where the boy obtained the lighter, but officials said they found no chemical residues t suggest the fire was deliberate.
He said authorities have “high confidence” in their analysis, based on both the physical evidence and interviews with the boy’s mother, father and grandmother.
“The lab results from the investigation have been thoroughly examined and test results show no accelerants," Chief Morgan said.
Investigators had earlier determined that the only smoke alarm in the duplex was downstairs and that it had no battery.
Mr. Dwayne Garriss, the state's fire marshal, said it is state law that smoke detectors must be placed outside any sleeping area, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, he said the landlord will face no liability, because the law carries no penalties for a first offense, and only a $25 fine for a second offense.
Still, all thoughts are turned to the 6-year-old who will have to live with knowing he caused the death of his siblings.
“The punishment comes in knowing he caused the deaths of his siblings," Ms. Velma Tilley, a Bartow County Juvenile Court Judge, told the AJC. "How could you punish him anymore?”
The child will need counseling to cope and to overcome any tendency to act out again.
“Clearly he will have to have therapy to come to grips with this, and what his actions have caused,” Ms. Tilley said. “He will need a lot of care to get past this.”
But it's unclear if the child realize the gravity of what he has done.
Experts suggested that the boy undergo psychological tests to help determine whether the fire was an accident, a bit of mischievous play or an intentional act of violence, the paper reported.
“He’s still 6 years old. He may not realize the gravity of what’s happened,” said Ms. Ava Lipscomb, the Bartow County director of a program that provides court-appointed advocates for children in juvenile court. “He needs help processing this.”
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