Father accused of setting house fire that killed his 3 children
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Police have arrested a 29-year-old man after he allegedly set his ex-wife’s house on fire, killing three of their children inside.
The fire broke out around midnight on Wed., Oct. 18 after police say the mother of the children, who was not home at the time, called 911 to say her ex-husband, Joseph Washington was threatening to burn the house down.
“He’s screaming on the phone. I hear the kids screaming. Y’all are just going to have to break through the door. Don’t let anything happen please!” the mother begged the dispatcher.
First responders were dispatched to the 4900 block of America Street in the Plum Orchard neighborhood shortly after midnight to find the home fully engulfed in flames.
Firefighters attempted to resuscitate a 5-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy upon arrival before they were rushed to a nearby hospital where they later died.
Firefighters say that as they continued to battle and prevent the spread of flames, they discovered a 3-year-old boy dead.
The parish coroner will determine the official causes of death.
Investigators determined this incident was the result of an apparent domestic dispute.
Surveillance video obtained from a neighbor’s residence shows the flames growing from the rear of the home. As this occurs, a person can be seen on the video exiting the home before getting into a vehicle and driving away.
While the search for Washington was underway, the grandfather of the children, Troy McDonnell, pleaded for his son to turn himself in.
“Joseph! Turn yourself in, Joseph! And that ain’t no lie. Turn yourself in and call me! Turn yourself in!” McDonnell pleaded.
Just before noon, Washington’s black Dodge Charger was found partially submerged in the Mississippi River at the foot of the levee in Gretna. Washington was nowhere to be found.
Around the same time, the NOPD says Washington was taken into custody and transported to the hospital for injuries sustained during the apprehension. Police say he jumped from an interstate overpass while fleeing in another vehicle on I-610 near Elysian Fields.
Washington faces three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of cruelty to juveniles, and one count of aggravated arson.
New Orleans Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick says she has reached out to the mother of the kids to offer her condolences.
Friends and family members have placed candles, balloons, and flowers on the front lawn of the home in memory of the kids.
“I can’t imagine the horror of this,” Bertrand Williams said. “Those kids were so young. His own children. It was just so evil what was displayed here. I just had to come out.”
Grief counselors will be on campus where the kids attended school for their classmates.
The NOPD’s Child Abuse unit is investigating. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Child Abuse at (504) 658-5267 or Crimestoppers anonymously at (504) 822-1111.
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