Great-grandmother caring for kids burned in fire has dementia, court records reveal

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Sep 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-07 18:25:23-04

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- The great-grandmother who was watching her three great-grandchildren in May when a fire broke out in her Colonial Heights home that severely burned two of them, was found to be mentally incompetent due to her dementia, according to court records uncovered by CBS6.

The children’s parents, Joshua Cabaniss and Cierra Pitts, were indicted by a grand jury Tuesday, and each face nine charges, including three counts of abuse of a child – disregard for life, three counts of cruelty to a child and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

CBS6 legal analyst Todd Stone said, "the offense date for the charges against the parents suggests that there might be evidence that they knowingly entrusted their children to a caregiver, their great-grandmother, who did not have the capacity to adequately care for them.”

The couple’s three children and their great-grandmother, Sharon Davis, were inside the family's Covington Road home when the fire started on May 15.

Their five-year-old son escaped, while a bystander rescued the great-grandmother.

The other two children, ages one and two, were rescued by first responders and brought to VCU’s burn center with third and fourth-degree burns.

Great-grandmother found incompetent due to dementia

According to court and police records, the court ordered Davis to undergo a competency hearing after Colonial Heights prosecutors said she stabbed her companion dog multiple times in August 2020.

She was found not competent to stand trial, and she was ordered to receive outpatient treatment in March 2021.

By October 2021, a doctor found Davis “continues to not understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her” and opined that Davis was still not competent to stand trial due to her dementia.

In fact, Davis’s own lawyer wrote in a bond motion that she was “unrestorably incompetent” because of the dementia.

Past history of leaving child in car unattended

While receiving outpatient treatment, Colonial Heights Police charged Davis in September of 2021 with contributing to the delinquency of a minor after they said she left a three-year-old child in her car outside the Goodwill store in Colonial Heights for at least 9 minutes.

The person who reported the child inside the car to police said there were no keys in the ignition and the child appeared hot.

That wasn’t the first time police accused Davis of leaving the same child alone in a car.

In December 2020, Colonial Heights Police charged Davis with the same crime after a caller noticed a two-year-old unattended in Davis’ car in a parking lot at the Southpark Mall.

A family member told police it was believed Davis had dementia.

CPS called police about Davis less than two months before fire

Court records also show a Child Protective Services worker called police less than two months before the fire at Davis’s home that severely injured her two great-grandchildren, and reported that Davis allegedly locked her four-year-old grandchild, the same one whom police said she left unattended in her car twice, out of the home due to her not listening and wanting to come inside.

Both of Davis’ charges related to leaving a child in her car alone were set aside by prosecutors.

Davis was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the animal cruelty case.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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