Posted by: Amelia | June 22, 2007

The Unasked Question

Casual Friday will return later today, but first a brief bit of horrible news:

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) — The mothers of five children killed in a house fire surrendered to police Thursday to face involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly leaving the youngsters alone while they went to a bar. […]

Mangham initially told police she left the children with a baby sitter, but later admitted she lied, according to a criminal complaint. Love also said later that she knew there was no baby sitter, and that the children had been left in the care of two 8-year-olds.

These mothers made an incredibly stupid decision, and then lied to police about. They deserve all sorts of censure. But why is nobody asking where the fathers were? Maybe they’re deadbeats and completely out of the picture – as readers, we have no way of knowing. But if these women are being charged for their short-term absentia, isn’t it at least a little relevant to ask about the fathers’ absentia – whether short or long term – as well?

[Edit: I meant why aren’t journalists asking the question, not law enforcement – sorry, I was unclear].


  1. One is a question of criminal law, dependent on specific facts: did the adult-in-charge (whether a mother, father, babysitter, or anyone else) put children in danger by leaving them?

    Your unasked question is sociological/political/maybe-moral and of much broader scope. (Why are there so many absent fathers and what are their responsibilities, generally?) While the PA event falls within this scope, this broader scene forms only the vaguest backdrop to the specific events. The missing fathers, wherever they are, did not have the same specific responsibility as the adults in charge at the time–unless they were present when the mothers left.

  2. I agree with MGS. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking into, but from a legal standpoint, it does appear as though the mothers were in charge.

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