PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A woman is now in police custody and faces 19 charges months after a fire at a Portsmouth townhome that led to seven children being hospitalized.
Dewanna Seward’s charges include child abuse, unlawful wounding and cruelty/injury to a child, WAVY’s Michelle Wolf learned on Friday. The indictment was in Portsmouth Circuit Court.
Nine children in total were inside the townhome on April 13 when it caught fire, and seven jumped to safety from a second a floor window with help from neighbors. Two of the children were rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
Witnesses told 10 On Your Side that Seward was outside at the time the fire started, driving the daycare’s bus to the front of the complex.
Meanwhile, residents of five units damaged at the condos told WAVY last month that they still haven’t gotten back into their homes after the fire. The property manager said they plan to fix the damaged units, but was waiting on insurance.
The daycare is also being investigated by the Virginia Department of Education.
A source close to one of the children who stayed at the daycare spoke to 10 On Your Side anonymously Friday and provided new details about what exactly happened that day.
“She physically left and was monitoring the kids through the cameras in her home,” said the woman.
The woman says Seward had taken three of the older children and her dog to run errands, leaving the rest from as young as two years old to eight years old home alone to fend for themselves.
“You’re paying someone to watch your kids and to totally disregard their lives, their safety,” the woman stated.
The woman told 10 On Your Side Seward was captured on video at the Red Barn gas station and then at a nearby grocery store. At that point, the children had been alone for more than half an hour.
A fire began after one of the children attempted to cook something on the stove.
The woman says when Seward saw the fire on her security cameras she told the children over the phone to get out of the home as quickly as possible.
“I’m sure that was very scary for a group of young kids,” the woman said.
10 On Your Side also obtained video from a neighbor that shows the children began screaming for help from an open second-floor window. A nearby neighbor ran up and told them to jump one at a time.
The woman says the child she’s close with jumped from the window and spent two days in the hospital recovering. She tells us the little girl was traumatized by the incident.
10 On Your Side has also learned the two children who were rescued by fire fighters were siblings ages two and four years old. The four-year-old child was blind and unable to jump.
While many of the children have made a physical recovery, some have PTSD from that day and are in counseling.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.