Charges weighed for mother in fatal fire
Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas will likely decide within two weeks whether to file crimal charges against the mother of a 13-month-old girl who died in a July house fire.
It’s doubtful the mother, Megan Longoria Pahl, will agree to another interview, so Douglas said that means he must rely on the information he already has on the case. He’s also waiting for additional scientific results both from the fire scene where Kylla Pahl suffered fatal burns and from the baby’s body. The baby was on the couch, alone, when an unattended candle ignited a dried floral arrangement.
Douglas said people shouldn’t blindly conclude that Megan Pahl will face charges just because of her admitted drug use and the unlivable condition of the C Street home, which was littered with dog feces, dirty diapers and rotten garbage.
Pahl told authorities that she had smoked and eaten methamphetamine two days before the deadly fire. Pahl also is pregnant.
“It could very well be this is a tragic accident, but we have not concluded that yet,” Douglas said. “We can’t go on her past. I know how this has been painted, but the law requires that she was committing an unlawful act that caused the fire and the death. We aren’t there yet.”
Coeur d’Alene police have asked that Pahl, 26, be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Douglas said he recently met with a Coeur d’Alene police detective and fire investigator to go over the case.
Police located Pahl and her husband, Kelley, last week in Coeur d’Alene, but she refused an interview with them. Douglas said Megan Pahl wanted to speak with him, but he didn’t think it was appropriate because she had already invoked her right to remain silent.
He doubts that she will agree to speak through an attorney.
Yet Capt. Ron Clark of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department said Pahl may seek legal counsel.
“We need to wait and see at this point,” Clark said.
He added that preliminary autopsy and toxicology results on Kylla Pahl show no problems or trace of drugs in the baby’s system.
In a search of the home in September 2005, police found meth and syringes throughout the house. Kylla Pahl wasn’t there – she had been removed from her mother’s custody at birth after they both tested positive for meth. Two other children were in the home at the time, though.
The fire broke out about 6:30 a.m. July 26. A neighbor told police that Pahl and a friend, Fred Messerly, were seen coming from a van in the backyard – he buttoning his shirt and she zipping her pants – as smoke poured from under the eaves of the home.
Messerly also has refused further interviews. He initially told police that Pahl was trying to sell him a van to raise bail money for her husband. Megan Pahl reiterated the story.
Kelley Pahl had been arrested on a warrant out of Spokane less than 24 hours before his daughter’s death. He told police he didn’t know why his wife would sell a car to raise bail money because he was being held without bond.
Douglas maintains he needs more information. He said that possible charges range from misdemeanors to felonies, but there also is a chance the fire and the baby’s death were an “unfortunate tragic accident.”
“The lines blur between excusable neglect and criminal neglect,” Douglas said. “They are not easy determinations.”