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New Charges Against Hartsville Mother

6:54 PM, Apr 26, 2013   |    comments
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Hartsville, SC (WLTX)  The mother of four children who were killed in a house fire in Hartsville made her first court appearance today.

Hope Hawkins, 21, is charged with four counts each of homicide by child abuse and unlawful neglect of a child.

Today, a judge set bond at $80,000 for the neglect charges, but could not set bond for the homicide by child abuse charges. That will be determined by a circuit court judge.

Deputies say her children, a 4-year-old boy, 2-year-old boy and 10-month-old twin girls, died of smoke inhalation after their mobile home erupted in flames on Wednesday afternoon. 

Investigators say Hawkins was not at home when the firefighters arrived.   Authorities believe the fire was accidental, and started in the kitchen.

"There's four children involved and I don't know if i can remember that -- I've been coroner for a long time and I've never seen that before," said Darlington County Coroner J. Todd Hardee.

Outside of the burned out mobile home, emotions were still raw Friday afternoon, three days later.

"It just hurts," said Geraldine Benjamin, a close family friend, "I mean, I live two streets over, it just hurts. Just knowing how these kids died, it's just painful."

Benjamin knows the grandparents of each of the four children and she says their lives are  shattered.

"The whole community is pretty torn up. We ride by here several times a day just to try to let it soak's really tough right now," Benjamin said.

 Darlington County Sheriff J.W. Byrd had trouble keeping his emotions in check at a morning press conference.

"It's senseless, you know, it's an incident that didn't have to happen," Byrd said. "They didn't have to die in this situation."

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