OKLAHOMA CITY – A recent tragedy has heated up a debate over child safety laws.
Monday morning, a 7-year-old boy died in a house fire after being left home alone.
Many now wonder if the mother in that case will face criminal charges.
District attorney David Prater said he has not ruled out filing child neglect charges against the mother.
He’s done that in similar cases in the past.
Right now, it’s not illegal to leave kids home alone at any age.
Adrian Roberto Avalos died in a fire after being left home alone.
From the first night, some neighbors criticized the mother for leaving the boy alone.
“To leave a child alone at that age is completely irresponsible and should be a criminal act,” state Rep. Richard Morrissette said.
Rep. Morrissette said unfortunately, the death this week highlights a hole in Oklahoma law that doesn’t prevent kids of any age from being left home alone.
“The law really does leave it up to parents to decide what age a child can be left alone,” said Oklahoma DHS spokesperson Sheree Powell.
DHS officials said some states outlaw leaving children home alone under age 12 but Oklahoma does not.
That doesn’t completely exempt parents from criminal prosecution.
For example in 2011, David Prater successfully prosecuted Chris and Stephanie Dunham for child neglect after their three kids died from being left alone in an RV fire.
“Just because the law does not say you can’t leave children alone, doesn’t mean you can’t be responsible if something happens,” Powell said.
“Is there a specific statute pertaining to children, there isn’t, but I can assure the public we can get that done real quick,” Morrissette said.
Oklahoma City police said they still believe someone broke into the home and started the fire.
They are still investigating it as a homicide but no arrests have been made.