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Mother of children burned in Colonial Heights house fire pleads guilty to felony charges

Cierra Pitts and Joshua Cabaniss
Posted at 4:06 PM, Apr 09, 2024

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- Almost a year after two young children were severely burnt in a Colonial Heights house fire, their mother pled guilty to several felony and misdemeanor charges for leaving them in the care of a family member that day who prosecutors say "couldn't have even a goldfish."

Cierra Pitts and the children's father, Joshua Cabaniss, were each charged with three counts of abuse of a child, three counts of cruelty to a child, and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

On Tuesday, Pitts pled guilty to three felony counts of child abuse/neglect and three misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

During the plea agreement, the prosecution stated Pitts knew of the dangers involved with leaving her three children, then 5, 2, and 1 years old at the time, in the care of their great-grandmother, Sharon Davis.

Davis was diagnosed with dementia and was at the center of multiple domestic violence allegations at the time of the fire.

During the May 15 fire, the two youngest children were trapped inside a Pack-and-Play and suffered severe burns across 80 to 95% of their bodies.

The babies were estimated to have to undergo anywhere from 50 to 100 surgeries. According to the prosecution, one of the children will likely have to wear a breathing device for the rest of their life.

Their sibling, a 5-year-old boy, and Davis were able to make it out of the home during the fire.

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The parental rights of both Pitts and Cabaniss have been terminated and both defendants cannot have contact with the children unless allowed by their adopted parents.

According to the prosecution, Pitts and Cabaniss "knew Davis could hurt the children" and Child Protective Services created a safety plan to prevent the kids from being in Davis's care before the fire.

Pitts had no prior criminal history before the fire.

"The prosecution's theory was not that she had done anything intentionally directly to harm them, but she left them in the care of an aging grandparent and she shouldn't have done that," Todd Ritter, Pitts's attorney, told CBS6.

Ritter said she'd faced backlash in person and over social media for the incident, claiming she was responsible for setting the fire.

"We just wanted the community to know that she did not undertake any deliberate or intentional action to hurt her children," Ritter said. "She was not even at the location when the fire occurred."

Pitts will serve one and a half years of active time as part of the agreement.

"She's hurting as a parent, she hurts for the children and the lasting damage that they will have to live with," Ritter said.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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