WACO, Texas (KWTX) Andrea Aleman, 44, the grandmother of two young children who died in a house fire earlier this month in South Waco, “was the first person out of the house,” her 11-year-old daughter told investigators, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released Friday.
Aleman, the affidavit says, “abandoned her grandchildren in a burning house and took no action to get them help until firefighters walked past her on the corner down from the house.”
Anthony Cole Puente, Jr., 4, and his sister, Rachel Rose Aleman, 2, died of smoke inhalation in the early-morning house fire on Nov. 2.
Aleman and her 11-year-old daughter, a student at West Avenue Elementary School, escaped from the house along with two other unidentified residents who occupied the front portion of the home, which had been converted into a duplex.
Aleman was arrested Thursday at a home in North Waco on warrants charging injury to a child, police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.
She remained in the McLennan County Jail Friday in lieu of bonds totaling $30,000.
Aleman, who, the affidavit says “changed her story as to what happened during the fire and her escape multiple times,” told investigators she was sleeping when the two children awakened her and alerted her to a fire in the kitchen that Waco fire investigators had been set.
“Aleman “did not immediately get up to investigate, instead she chose to remain in bed for at least several minutes in a home with no working smoke alarms,” the affidavit says.
When she did get up, the affidavit says, Aleman found a fire burning in the kitchen, in which there was a pile of clothes, trash and children’s toys.
“Once the defendant left the bedroom, she left both victims behind and did not return to assist them or ensure they got out of the house,” the affidavit says.
“Instead the defendant merely briefly called out from the next room, then left herself without ensuring the children had fled,” the affidavit says.
Aleman admitted she left the burning house “without seeing the young children actually leave,” the affidavit says.
And once she was outside and realized the children were still inside, she “made no effort get the children out of the house, whether by actually physically getting them or by beckoning with them at the doorway,” the affidavit says.
She didn’t ask the two residents of the other half of the duplex to help, either, the affidavit says.
The fire broke out at around 1:30 a.m. Nov. 2 at the family’s home in the 1200 block of Webster Avenue.
Flames were shooting from both sides of the house when the first firefighters arrived.
Firefighters quickly discovered that the two children were still inside the home, EMT Deputy Chief R.M. Bergerson said.
Bergerson said it took 12 minutes for firefighters to find the two; one was inside a closet and the other inside a bathroom.
Both children were taken to Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center in critical condition.
They died a short time later.
"From the onset of the initial fire, Waco Fire Department and Waco Police Department personnel worked side by side during an extremely difficult investigation," Swanton said Thursday.
"The joint efforts of all involved were instrumental in the outcome of the arrest."
The aunt and uncle of the two youngsters said there were pleased to learn of the arrest.
“I really don't know how the fire started, but someone has to pay for it,” John Puente said Thursday.
"For them to just be left in the closet by themselves scared, crying not knowing what was going on, that hurts us,” Felicia Puente said.