TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – A woman pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter Wednesday in the deaths of seven children who died in a fire started by one of them while the woman was briefly absent from the house.

Six of the children were Melinda Ragland’s own. She said she had gone to her sister’s apartment to get diapers and was away only for several minutes.

“She had no money or phone,” said her lawyer, Chuck Boyk. “She was trying to be a good mother.”

Ragland faces a maximum of 35 years in prison. She changed her plea from innocent to no contest, and in exchange prosecutors agreed to drop seven counts of child endangering.

She refused to comment after the hearing Thursday. She will be sentenced Oct. 28.

The six siblings and a cousin, ages 7 months to 7 years, died from smoke inhalation Oct. 24, 2004. A child playing with a candle, lighter or matches started the fire on a mattress in an upstairs bedroom.

Ragland earlier had insisted that she did not leave the children alone. She told family members that she was standing just outside her open front door when she noticed smoke coming from the upstairs and tried to run back and save the children.

Some of the children were hiding under their beds while others were found in closets.


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