Waco, Tx (FOX 44) – The grandmother of two children who died in a 2018 fire has been given five years probation after pleading guilty to felony endangering a child.
49-year-old Andrea Aleman was originally charged with injury to a child in the case, in which two-year-old Rachel Aleman and four-year-old Anthony Puente died. In addition to the probation, Andrea will have to undergo a cognitive education program and complete parenting classes.
It was early on the morning of November 2, 2018 that a fire destroyed Andrea’s home at 1218 Webster Avenue. She was able to get out of the house, along with her eleven-year-old daughter. Her younger grandchildren were left inside of the burning home.
Deputy Chief Bobby Bergerson with the Waco Fire Department said, at the time, it took a while to find the children trapped inside the house.
“Given the zero visibility conditions, heavy smoke and the heat of course, they [firefighters] were trying to fight fire, as well. So they were up against some pretty bad odds,” Bergerson said.
Bergerson said the house had two non-working smoke alarms, and is reminding the community to frequently check those alarms. Investigators never did determine an exact cause of the fire, but said no evidence was found that it was deliberately set.
A statement by the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office said despite initial reports that Andrea failed to immediately respond when awakened and told of the fire by her grandchildren, subsequent investigation revealed that any delay in her response could not be proven. The statement also said a difficulty investigators initially faced in gathering precise information from Andrea is that she suffers from intellectual disabilities which impair both her ability to process information and to effectively communicate.
The statement also said that originally the previous McLennan County District Attorney’s Administration charged Andrea with the first-degree felony offense of intentionally or knowingly causing serious bodily injury to the two children. This charge required proof that Andrea deliberately failed to take action to save the children from the fire.
However, after reviewing the case, including by consulting with the investigating detective, prosecutors determined that the evidence did not support the original charge. The statement said the evidence did prove that Andrea endangered the children by negligently failing to supervise them prior to the fire, which ultimately placed them in danger of injury or death. This charge of Endangering a Child is a State Jail Felony, which carries a maximum possible sentence of two years.
In addition to her intellectual disability, Andrea is also currently suffering from life-threatening physical ailments and is limited in her mobility.
Assistant District Attorney’s Will Hix and Ryan Calvert said, “The deaths of Rachel and Anthony are heartbreaking. Our office, though, is committed to the principle of holding offenders accountable for the crimes supported by the evidence, even when doing so is emotionally difficult. We are so grateful to the Waco Fire, Police, and AMR personnel who did everything possible to avert this tragedy.”