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New Orleans father charged with murder after house fire kills 3 children

Joseph Washington is suspected to be seen in a video walking out of the burning house

By Olivia Lloyd
The Charlotte Observer

NEW ORLEANS — The father of three kids killed in a house fire has now been charged with murder, child cruelty and arson, New Orleans police said at a news conference.

The New Orleans Fire Department responded to a call of a fire shortly after midnight Oct. 18, according to a news release from the department. Firefighters said they found a child unresponsive just steps from the front door of the home and a second child not far behind.

They were rushed to a hospital, where they died of their injuries, fire officials said.

As firefighters tried to keep the blaze from spreading to nearby homes, they found a toddler dead in the home, according to the department.

The mother of the three children called 911 just before midnight to tell police the father of their kids threatened to burn the house down, the Associated Press reported, citing police.

The woman wasn’t home at the time the fire started, police said at the Oct. 18 news conference.

New Orleans Police Chief Ryan Lubrano said at the conference that the department’s child abuse unit is investigating the fire. During the course of the investigation, officials named the children’s father, Joseph Washington, as a suspect.

Washington was arrested at about 11:40 a.m. in Gretna, about five miles south of New Orleans, police said. His car was found partially submerged in a river, Lubrano said.

Washington has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile and one count of aggravated arson, Lubrano said.

The children were 3, 5 and 8, according to Lubrano. He said there was a history of domestic violence.

In a Ring video shared by WDSU, a man is seen exiting the house as a blaze roars in the back of the home. He gets in a car parked in the driveway and leaves the scene, according to the video.

Forty-six fire personnel members responded to the scene, the fire department said. They got the blaze under control about 30 minutes after they were dispatched to the scene.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

If you are experiencing domestic violence and need someone to talk to, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for support at 1-800-799-7233 or text “START” to 88788.

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