Worried that her twin baby girls would get too cold, Jamesetta Shealeay bundled them in fuzzy pink blankets and nudged the thermostat up a tad Tuesday night.
Then she turned on a space heater to keep them extra warm.
Her protective instincts may actually have killed the tiny girls.
“I worried about them so much, and I finally just made them too warm,” Shealeay sobbed, hours after she lifted her daughters’ lifeless bodies from the crib in their northeast Spokane home.
“It killed them. I can’t believe it killed them.”
Lenora and Aurora Allen, 10 weeks old, died early Wednesday of hyperthermia, authorities said.
When paramedics arrived at about 8:30 a.m., the temperature was pushing 100 degrees in the basement room they shared with their mother and two older brothers.
“The environment was too warm,” said George Lindholm, the pathologist who performed the autopsies Wednesday. “But these deaths, it wasn’t anything that was intended by anyone. These were absolutely beautiful, healthy, well-cared-for children.”
Shealeay, 24, who lives with her mother on East Rich, said she fed the twins about 5 a.m.
The babies were coming down with a cold, so Shealeay also made sure to clean their noses so they wouldn’t have trouble breathing.
Then she put them back to bed.
When they hadn’t stirred by 8 a.m., Shealeay said she decided to wake them.
“They were just limp,” said Shealeay’s mother, Darlene Hansford. “We tried to do CPR but it was too late.”
Shealeay and her two toddler sons, all sleeping a few feet away from the twins, were not affected by the heat. The mother said she didn’t realize it was that hot in the room.
“I never knew anything was wrong,” she said. “Everything was fine.”
Hyperthermia is caused when excessive heat raises the body temperature to a high fever, Lindholm said.
Police inspected the home Wednesday and interviewed the family, ruling out foul play.
The ranch-style home is neat and fully child-proofed, and detectives said it quickly became clear the deaths were accidental.
Firefighters also examined the home’s heating system to make sure a lack of oxygen wasn’t making it release carbon monoxide. Both the gas furnace and space heater checked out fine, they said.
“Their little bodies just couldn’t take the heat,” Hansford said. “(Shealeay) tried to keep them safe and warm, that’s all. She’s just too good of a mother.”
The twins were born Sept. 25 - a month and a half premature and just three weeks after their father was sent to prison for an assault conviction.
Anthony Allen never got to hold his babies, Shealeay said. His first look at them will be in their casket next week, at the funeral prison officials will allow him to attend.
News of his daughters’ deaths made Allen angry at God.
“He’s been trying to turn to Him, to find a way to change his life and now his faith is crumbling,” Shealeay said. “We’re trying to do better for our family and then this happens. I don’t know why.”
Now, with Christmas coming, the unemployed mother said she’s going to focus on her boys, ages 2 and 1. The oldest, Anthony Lamar Allen Jr., spent all day Wednesday asking where his baby sisters were, she said.
“He loved them so much,” Shealeay said. “What do you say?”
A funeral will be held Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Full Gospel Mission, 1912 E. First. The twins will share a casket, just as they shared life, their relatives decided.
“They came into this world together and they went out together,” Hansford said. “They’re going to stay that way - together.”
A trust fund has been set up in the girls’ names to help the family pay funeral expenses. Donations can be made at any Spokane branch of Washington Mutual Bank.
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