Fresno mother who left kids home alone before apartment fire heading to prison prior to sentencing

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An already unusual case takes another unusual turn. The teen mom who left her young kids to fend for themselves in a Southwest Fresno apartment fire pled guilty to three counts of child abuse.

Jamela Brown, 19, was arrested in January after firefighters rescued her children from their burning home.

Usually, a defendant will be sentenced before heading off to prison. The teen mom is already going into state custody, but in this case, it's not to start her punishment, it's so everyone can learn a little more about her and what may have led up to that fateful day.

Dramatic video from a firefighter's camera details the effort crews went to, to pull three young children out of their Church Avenue home back in January. Their mom actually had to open the doors so crews could get inside. That same mom faced a judge on Thursday and said she's guilty of child abuse times three.

The 19-year-old will now head to prison, but not to start her sentence. In fact, she hasn't even been sentenced. ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi said, "It is unusual because normally when someone enters a plea, the judge then refers them to the probation department here in Fresno County."

Instead of a local review, Brown will answer to a prison warden and psychologist for a clinical evaluation. It's called a diagnostic report. Capozzi says the Department of Corrections will now make a recommendation about her future. While not unheard of, it's not standard procedure. Although, nothing in this case has been usual. "Something isn't right here. Rather than hiring someone privately in Fresno County and paying money, we go directly to the Department of Corrections where the state will take care of the interviews here and the cost of the evaluations," Capozzi said.

While it does save the county money and can be more efficient, it gives the judge and prosecutor a better picture of who the 19-year-old really is. The teen initially told police that the children were with an adult when she went to the store that January day. But firefighters didn't buy her story. Those kids were alone and were rushed to the hospital, suffering from severe smoke inhalation. "She does seem to be a very young and immature person -- with three children, with a lot of responsibilities -- she's going to need a lot of help before she gets those children back," Capozzi said.

The report will take at least a month and will be used to determine Brown's fate when she's sentenced at the end of July. As for the children, we're told they're physically OK and are in protective custody.
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