Children services officials say they warned the mother not to leave her children alone.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Police say a Kenmar Court woman arrested Friday was at a bar when her then-12-year-old son, left with no adult supervision, decided to make a drain-cleaner bomb.
The boy, now 13, his 7-year-old sister and three other children were overcome by chemical fumes and taken to the hospital before the bomb was complete in the mid-July episode.
The mother, 32, was given a summons Friday to appear Sept. 6 in Mahoning County Juvenile Court on three charges of child endangerment. She also was arrested on an unrelated warrant on charges of obstructing official business and failure to appear on a probation violation in Boardman.
She was expected to be arraigned this morning in county court in Boardman on the charges of obstructing and failure to appear.
A letter from county children services to Austintown police states that the woman had been warned in the past not to leave her children alone.
The five overcome by fumes include her children and three of their friends, ages 5, 11 and 13. All were later released from the hospital. After speaking with the children, Austintown police asked the county prosecutor's office to consider filing charges against the mother.
Inhaled chemicals: Township fire department reports state that the children were short of breath and suffering from chemical burns when fire officials arrived at the Kenmar Court home around 9:20 p.m. July 16. Hospital officials would not say if the burns were internal or external. The children had inhaled fumes from a mixture of bleach and drain cleaner.
The 12-year-old boy and another boy, the 11-year-old friend, at the house later told police they were trying to make a drain-cleaner bomb.
Drain-cleaner bombs can be created with household chemicals and tinfoil, and typically, a 2-liter plastic soft-drink bottle.
The 12-year-old boy told police he was about to add tinfoil when he was overcome by the fumes. Once the ingredients are sealed in the bottle, it can take from 10 minutes to an hour for the bomb to explode.
The sound and fury when a drain-cleaner bomb explodes is similar to that of an M-80 or M-1000 firecracker, Youngstown city fire officials have said. Several of the bombs have exploded in the city this summer.
Police say the children on Kenmar Court got the chemicals for the bomb in the home. The 12-year-old's mother told police she was at the New Deal Bar on Mahoning Avenue at the time.
Previous trouble: The letter from children services to police states that Youngstown police asked the agency to check on the woman's children in 1999. The children and their mother were living on Oakwood Avenue at the time.
The letter does not state why police wanted the agency to check on the children.
Children services caseworkers and city police found the children alone and living in a "deplorable, filthy condition with very little food," according to the letter. The mother arrived home drunk later that night, the letter states. She told police she felt her then-11-year-old son was old enough to watch his sister.
Police placed the boy and his sister with their grandmother that night. The mother was warned not to leave the children home alone in the future.
Two hours later, a children services caseworker came back to the home and found the woman still drinking alcohol, the letter states.
"There appears to be an ongoing pattern of the mother leaving children home alone," the letter states.
Denise Stewart, director of county children services, said she is prevented by law from discussing specific neglect cases and could not say why the Kenmar Court mother still had custody of her children in July.
However, Stewart stressed that only police officers or a person designated by a police officer have the power to remove children from a home.
The officers also determine if the children need to be removed, she said.
"A lot of people assume we have the power to do that; we do not," Stewart said. "It's really in the officer's judgment."