A Tragic House Fire - What is the True Story?

Three children killed in north Minneapolis fire laid to rest - Speakers lament conditions that led to death of 3 children


Large portraits of the grinning children lined the front of the church, honoring Latorious, 6, Latoria, 5, and Latorianna Thomas, who was about to turn 2 — all young lives tragically cut short in an early morning house fire on Oct. 4. “Now we’re here looking at three babies that could be doctors, lawyers, judges,” community activist Spike Moss told more than 100 mourners at the funeral on Saturday inside the Spiritual Church of God in Robbinsdale. “We want this to be a symbol of change. The only good from this is they were so innocent that they’re on their way to heaven.”

The children had recently moved from Chicago to north Minneapolis with their mother, Taneisha Stewart. It was their first night in a new rental property on the 2700 block of Penn Avenue N., and the furnace wasn’t working. With temperatures dipping, Stewart turned on the stove so her family could keep warm. Investigators have concluded that the electric stove started the fire, but they are still trying to pinpoint the exact cause. Arson has been ruled out, but authorities don’t believe Stewart was home when the blaze erupted, as she originally claimed.

... U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., called on members of the black community to take care of one another in order to prevent further tragedies. “No child, no matter how poor they may be, should have to withstand the boiling heat of Florida in July or the cold in Minnesota,” he said. “No family should have to turn on the stove just to stay warm.”
House Fire In North Minneapolis Kills 3 Children

Three young children are dead after their house caught fire Saturday night in north Minneapolis. The family had just moved into the home, and we’re told they may have left the oven open and running in the kitchen to keep warm.

The children’s mother made it out alive, but the three children were trapped inside. The three children who died in the fire have not been identified, but they are 1, 6 and 8 years old. This house isn’t supposed to be still, or empty. Just yesterday, a mom and her 3 kids moved in.

As night and temperatures fell, firefighters believe the oven stayed on and open to heat the house. “They are not vented properly. They are not a heating appliance. They are used for cooking and not heating,” Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said. And that is what he says started a fire that lit up the dark fall night. “Unfortunately last night there was so much involvement of fire that it made it very, very difficult for our fire crews,” Fruetel said.

He said once inside, his firefighters made the most emotional of discoveries, two children who lost their lives downstairs and one fighting to live upstairs who eventually also died. “We grieve when we lose a child and to lose three is unfathomable pain for the family, for the friends and for us as the city of Minneapolis,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said.
Investigator believes Mom wasn't home when kids died in fire

Investigators believe that a Minneapolis mother was not at home when a raging house fire took the lives of her three children. In a search warrant filed to obtain the cell phone records of Taneisha Y. Stewart, Minneapolis Fire Department Investigator Timothy Thomas said Stewart had no soot or a noticeable smell of smoke when officials arrived on the fire scene at 2755 Penn Avenue North shortly before midnight on Oct. 3.

The warrant states Stewart showed no sign of smoke inhalation, despite her claim that she was sleeping on the first floor and awoke to find the home ablaze. Thomas also added she did not require medical assistance and smelled of an "intoxicating beverage." "We do not believe she was in the house prior to the discovery of the fire. We would like to find out where she was and it would be at the time that we might arrive at perhaps submitting a case to a prosecutor," said Sgt. Sean McKenna, an investigator with the Minneapolis Arson Unit.

McKenna is requesting Stewart's cell phone records to try and figure out where she was when the fire started. The warrant states, "The lack of a competent adult inside the home with three sleeping juveniles under the age of seven is a factor in the deaths of the children." Stewart told KARE 11 the day after the fire that she did everything she could to rescue her kids. Six-year-old Latorious, 5-year-old Latora and 1-year-old Latorianna Stewart perished in the fire. Investigators believe the fire was caused by the oven, which was being used to heat the home as the furnace was out of service. While investigators say the fire did start in the home's kitchen, the official cause of the fire is undetermined. The request for Stewart's phone records, and cell towers that would locate her whereabouts on the night of the fire that killed her children was granted by a Hennepin County Judge. Those records will help determine whether criminal charges are filed against Taneisha Y. Stewart. However, McKenna said it is too early to talk about possible charges.
Investigators: Minneapolis mom not home during fire that killed 3 kids

Investigators said the mother of 3 children who died in a fire on Penn Avenue N. in Minneapolis in early October was not home when the flames broke out. Latorious, 6, Latoria, 5, and Latorianna, 1, were all killed in the fire, which officials said started in the kitchen where the oven was being used for heat. According to a search warrant application filed in Hennepin County Court on Friday by Minneapolis police Sgt. Sean McKenna: The children’s mother, Taneisha Stewart, “showed no signs of having been inside the burning dwelling. She had no soot on her person, nor a noticeable smell of smoke. She was not coughing, short of breath, or exhibiting any signs of smoke inhalation. She did not require any emergency medical assistance." The investigator noted Stewart smelled of alcohol.

“Your affiant does not believe Ms. Stewart was present inside the home at the time of the fire. The lack of a competent adult inside the home with three sleeping juveniles under the age of seven is a factor in the deaths of the children.” The search warrant application said Thomas told investigators her home did not have a working furnace and she was heating the home with an electric kitchen stove with the door open. She said she had done this at a prior residence in Chicago, and “never had a problem.” The Minneapolis home did have working smoke detectors.


  • There is no diminishing the tragedy: Three innocent young children dead by fire!
  • Representative Ellison seems to be blaming "the system" (or at least that's my take)
  • I have questions about the house / landlord: The smoke detectors? The furnace?
  • And I have questions about the mother? Was she or not there?
  • Why did the mother move to Minneapolis? Where was the father?


  1. High of 58, low of 42 that day. If they had blankets or even plausible insulation in that house, they didn't need heat that night.


    But that said, yes, a residence should have heat, and I think we're simply seeing a tragic result of a lot of bad life choices by the mother. We may also be seeing the results of a city that doesn't do adequate inspections of rental properties. I remember having an inspection when I rented out my Chaska home.

    Another thought is that the cause of problems with a stove being lit ought to be carbon monoxide inhalation, not fire. I am guessing that a less than ethical landlord didn't do squat to clean grease and such out of that oven before he rented out the property.

    Perhaps Ms. Stewart belongs in jail, but I'm thinking the stronger case would be for the city building inspectors in Chicago and Minneapolis, along with at least two landlords who didn't manage to have heat or perhaps even insulation for their renters.

    1. Bud she was at fault. She should have been there and the blankets and insulation wouldn't have saved them. She should have demanded a hotel room until the heat in the house was fixed or not have moved in. It was her fault no one else's. Yes maybe the owners of the house should be investigated but she is at fault and there is nothing that will excuse her for what happened.


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