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No Criminal Charges In Fatal Christmas Day Fire

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Lilian, Grace and Sarah Badger (From memorial program/John Moore/Getty Images)

Lilian, Grace and Sarah Badger (From memorial program/John Moore/Getty Images)

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By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A prosecutor said Friday that he will not file criminal charges related to a Christmas morning fire that killed three girls and their grandparents.

The fire killed 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger, 9-year-old Lily Badger and grandparents Lomer and Pauline Johnson.

Officials say it was started by embers in a bag of discarded fireplace ashes.

Stamford State’s Attorney David Cohen said Friday that some precautions were taken and that while in hindsight they were insufficient, they didn’t rise to the level of criminal negligence.  (Read the full report by State’s Attorney David Cohen.)

“This is not a decision made easily or lightly,” Cohen wrote in a report. “In a tragedy of this magnitude, it is understandable that both the people affected by it personally and the public at large need to find that someone is responsible, that it is not just a senseless accident. However, my determination must be based solely on whether there is sufficient evidence to hold someone criminally responsible.”

The girls’ mother, Madonna Badger, and a friend Michael Borcina, escaped the fire.

Cohen said Borcina cleaned out the fireplace around 3:30 a.m., shoveling the ash into a paper bag. Borcina said that he smoothed out the ashes with his hand and that allayed any concerns Madonna Badger had about any live embers being present, Cohen said.

“It is my opinion that there is insufficient evidence to establish that either Mrs. Badger or Mr. Borcina were aware of and consciously disregarded a risk that there was a possible live ember in the ash that could result in a catastrophic fire,” Cohen wrote. “It stretches belief to think that they would consciously disregard the danger and go to sleep, much less that they would disregard any danger to the Badger children or Mrs. Badger’s parents.”

Borcina’s attorney, Eugene Riccio, said he was grateful for the decision.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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