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Manager of Home Charged With Manslaughter in Fire That Killed 3

Times Staff Writer

A 40-year-old woman who managed a home for the mentally disabled was arrested Tuesday morning on three counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a Feb. 6 fire that killed three residents of the home, officials said.

Nayoma Jeannette Raleigh was charged with suspicion of violating state fire codes for “failing to fulfill her responsibility in the area of maintaining the alarm system” at the Linda Turman Home for disabled adults, according to a declaration in support of the arrest warrant.

Fire investigators have determined that the fire alarm system at the home on Clarendon Street was turned off at the time the fire started, contributing to the deaths of three people and the injuries to five others.

The condition of the alarm “resulted in the clients of the residence not being alerted to the immediate danger during the fire, resulting in the injuries and deaths,” the arrest warrant stated.

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Raleigh was arrested at 10 a.m. Tuesday at another Turman home on Dunbar Lane in El Cajon. She is to be arraigned today. If convicted, she could face six years in jail.

Fourteen developmentally disabled residents were living in the single-story, wood-frame house when the fire started.

The bodies of two residents, Patty Anne Melton, 33, and Pietra Corrao, 47, were found in a charred bedroom after the fire.

A third resident, Mark Buis, 33, died several days later of burns suffered in the fire. Buis’ wife, Debbie, 33, was seriously injured and is still hospitalized at UC San Diego Medical Center.

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A 19-year-old former resident of the Turman home was arrested in February and charged with arson and three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the blaze. David Allen Giles has pleaded innocent to the charges, and his preliminary hearing is to begin April 15.

Prosecutors charged that Giles may have started the fire with nail polish remover and newspapers, but authorities have yet to determined a motive.

In charging Raleigh with involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors maintain that she was responsible for managing the home and for the welfare of its residents.

“There was some feeling that if people had been alerted, then the results would not have been as catastrophic,” said Linda Miller, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County district attorney’s office. “Turning off the alarm led to the direct and proximate cause of the deaths.”

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According to the arrest warrant, Raleigh admitted in initial interviews with investigators that she turned the alarm off about a week before the fire, but she also said she remembered turning it back on. The alarm box was in the kitchen, and fire investigators have determined that the key was kept in the lock, a violation of state fire codes.

“It is apparent from the smoke and fire damage to (the key) that it had been in place at the time of the fire,” the arrest warrant stated.

An independent electrical and safety engineer also has determined that, although there were two blown fuses in the alarm system before the fire, that did not deactivate the system, Miller said. Linda Turman, who operates five other homes for the developmentally and mentally disabled, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The district manager for the state Department of Social Services, which must license such homes, said that Turman had been a “good licensee” and the department would not investigate conditions at other Turman homes.

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“From our perspective, we hold the licensee responsible for correcting deficiencies, hiring qualified staff and keeping the place up to standards,” said Thomas Hersant, district manager of the department’s community care licensing division. “If a situation such as the the deactivated alarm system arises and is chronic we would blame her (Turman). But this is the first incident of this kind. We have had not problems with her homes in the past.”


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