Gary police ask for information about fire that left 3 children dead

GARY, Ind. (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Gary police are asking for information from the public about a fire that left three young children dead Friday night in northwest Indiana.

Crews responded at 11:26 p.m. to the blaze in one unit of the Oak Knoll Renaissance apartment complex in the 4400 block of West 23rd Court in Gary, according to the Gary Fire Department.

One woman jumped from a second-story window to escape the flames and heavy smoke, fire officials said. She was taken to a hospital with severe burns, but was expected to survive.

Once the fire was brought under control nearly an hour later, firefighters found two of her children dead in separate beds on the second floor, and a third child dead on a staircase, fire officials said.

The Lake County coroner’s office identified a girl and boy as 4-year-old Alaya Pickens and 5-year-old Jayden Mitchell. They lived in the 3500 block of West 20th Avenue in Gary. On Monday, the coroner’s office identified the third child as 2-year-old girl Yaleah Cohen, who lived in the apartment where she died.

The fire has been ruled an arson, Gary Fire Department spokesman Mark Jones said. However, Gary police said Thursday that the State Fire Marshal has not yet made an official determination as to the cause and nature of the blaze and all avenues are being investigated.

“Anyone who has knowledge of the events that occurred; leading up to, during and after this tragic fire, is urgently asked to come forward,” according to the statement from police.

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Sgt. Shauna Poirier-Peter of the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at (219) 755-3855 or the crime tip line at (866) 274-6347.

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