Joseph Washington Sr., 29, has been arrested and charged in relation to the tragic deaths of his three children in a New Orleans house fire, as announced by the New Orleans Police Department during a Wednesday news conference. Charges against Washington include three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of cruelty to a juvenile, and one count of aggravated arson. Authorities have linked the incident to a domestic dispute.
Late Tuesday night, moments before the fire was reported, the mother of the children called 911, alerting authorities that Washington, her ex-husband, threatened to set their home ablaze. She was on her way to the house when she made the call, which conveyed a sense of urgency and panic.
Firefighters responding to the scene in New Orleans East found two children, aged five and eight, unresponsive. Despite resuscitation attempts, both children were pronounced dead at a hospital roughly an hour later. A third child, a 3-year-old boy, was found dead at the scene.
Following a manhunt on Wednesday, authorities located Washington’s car, partially submerged in the Mississippi River. Later in the day, he was apprehended on the I-610 after attempting to escape by jumping off an overpass. He was subsequently taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries sustained during his attempted escape.
The exact cause of the fire is under investigation. The coroner will determine the official cause of death for the three children.
Interim Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick expressed the community’s collective grief and outrage during the briefing. She assured that the person responsible will face full accountability for the heinous act. Deputy Superintendent Ryan Lubrano mentioned the possibility of charges being revised as investigations continue.