Child welfare officials saw no 'pattern of neglect' before deadly fire


Child welfare workers have no record of the "pattern of neglect" that led Nye County sheriff's detectives to arrest a Pahrump woman who lost three children in a house fire last week.

Child Protective Services never had any contact with Sharon Broadhead before the Feb. 9 blaze, which killed her sons and a family friend, according to a fatality disclosure from the state Division of Child and Family Services.

The report, released Tuesday, says the agency provided no services nor made any referrals to family members before the deaths.

Child welfare workers now plan to contact Broadhead to provide information on grief counseling and to assess the family, including the health and safety of the woman's two remaining children.

Elliot Broadhead, 18 months, Zachary Broadhead, 4, and Brandon Michael Smith, 5, died in the fast-moving fire, which also killed family friend Crystal Leann Smiley, 24.

Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo said evidence of "a pattern of neglect" led detectives to arrest Broadhead, 29, on Saturday and book her on four counts of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of child abuse and neglect causing death.

Broadhead has not been charged. She was released on her own recognizance Monday after a court hearing in Pahrump.

DeMeo said he could not elaborate on the specific evidence uncovered by his officers, but he indicated that Broadhead failed to take steps that could have prevented the fire, which investigators believe was accidentally set by one of the children.

"This wasn't just one isolated incident. This was one of a series of fires started by the children. The mother knew about that," DeMeo said.

Broadhead's arrest drew criticism in Pahrump, 60 miles west of Las Vegas, but the sheriff said he cannot make decisions "based upon a popularity contest."

"We have a loss of four lives," he said. "For us to turn away from that because it may not be popular, we would not be doing our job."

Some critics have questioned the timing of the arrest, which came before the State Fire Marshal's Office completed its final report on the blaze.

That report still is not done, but DeMeo said his officers had enough information to book Broadhead without a final cause and origin from fire investigators.

Nye County District Attorney Brian Kunzi said Tuesday that he couldn't comment on the merits of the case and won't make a decision about whether to file charges until he sees "all relevant reports," including the final results of the state fire marshal's investigation.

Broadhead's next court appearance is scheduled for March 28.

Had the grieving mother not been released from jail Monday, DeMeo said, he would have made arrangements for her to attend the funeral for her children.

"We're not heartless," the sheriff said.

A viewing for the three boys was held Tuesday night. The funeral will take place at noon today at Pahrump's new Mormon chapel at 5461 Manse Road.

Services for Smiley will begin Thursday with a viewing from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Pahrump Family Mortuary, followed by a funeral at 2 p.m. Friday at Pahrump Community Church, 1061 E. Wilson Road.

Support for the families of the victims has been pouring in from across Southern Nevada since the blaze.

Members of Temple Sinai in Summerlin collected $10,500 in donations, enough to cover the funeral costs for all four fire victims.

Synagogue member Steve Haberkorn delivered the check to the mortuary in Pahrump on Tuesday morning.

"When you see something tragic like that, I think everyone should pitch in," Haberkorn said. "It has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with helping people."

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal. com or 702-383-0350. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

 

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