Baby killed when hot plate starts fire; mother arrested

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- An Olympia woman accused of leaving her toddler son alone in a bedroom where a hot plate was being used for heat was arrested Monday for investigation of second-degree manslaughter in his death in a fire, the Thurston County sheriff's office said.

Ashley Conroy, 22, was arrested after she was treated for smoke inhalation at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Lt. Cliff Ziesemer said Monday evening. It was not immediately known late Monday whether she had a lawyer.

The hot plate with an open coil sat on a floor and apparently ignited nearby clothes, Ziesemer said.

The mother was outside the home, eating at a nearby trailer on the property, when the fire broke out about 5 a.m. Monday.

"The baby boy was by himself in the residence. The mother was in the other residence, basically eating cake, and was not aware of the fire," Ziesemer said.

Conroy suffered smoke inhalation and a burned nose trying to get back inside.

"My daughter tried to get in there to save my grandson and wasn't able to get in there," said Zindy Carter, Conroy's mother.

Two other adults on the property were also unable to reach the young boy in time. They were met by flames when they opened the door, Ziesemer said.

The father was in jail at the time, having been arrested about 2 a.m. for driving with a suspended license, Ziesemer said.

There had been two similar bedroom fires in the home in the past two months that were not reported, he said.

The grandparents say they were just trying to provide shelter for mother and child.

"She was just homeless with a baby so we did our best to give her a place to stay. We didn't want the baby to be on the street," said Gary Hanson, the baby's grandfather.

Thurston County Fire District 13 said the house was burning when firefighters arrived. They, too, were unable to reach the child because of the flames.

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