Locked up in the Charleston County jail, Amy Robinson says she is fighting for her life against accusations that her inattention contributed to the death of her two youngest children in an August mobile home fire.
In a letter to The Post and Courier, Robinson insisted she was in the home when the fire started but could not save her 2-year-old son and infant daughter because of the blaze. Robinson said she was not in the bathroom, as she claimed in the past. Rather, she was napping in bed because she was worn out from caring for her children, she stated.
Robinson said investigators are unfairly trying to pin the deaths on her based on the word of her 4-year-old daughter and an unidentified person.
"Now I'm fighting for my life," Robinson stated. "I have never been in trouble with law. ... A lot of people can tell you that I loved my kids but I know that I wish I could have got them but I could not because of the fire."
North Charleston police aren't impressed. Police said this account is just the latest story Robinson has told about the incident and it doesn't square with what happened.
Detective Sgt. Kelly Spears, lead investigator on the case, said Robinson has already confessed to police that she left her children alone in the home while she took a cigarette break at a picnic table down the road. She made the admission after failing four lie detector tests administered by an FBI polygrapher, Spears said.
"She admitted that she was not there and she came up after the fire had started," Spears said.
In her letter, Robinson alluded to making the admission to the police on Sept. 30, but she now insists she actually was inside.
Robinson said she wanted to set the record straight and invited a Post and Courier reporter to visit her in the jail, where she is being held without bail on two charges of homicide by child abuse or neglect and one count of unlawful conduct toward a child. Robinson later canceled the planned meeting on the advice of her attorney, public defender Mary Beth Mullaney, jail officials said. Mullaney didn't return a phone call from the newspaper.
The fast-moving fire began at 3:43 on the afternoon of Aug. 24, destroying the Lakewood Street mobile home and killing 3-month old Tatyanna Green and her 2-year-old half-brother, Anthony Lazo. Robinson and her 4-year-old daughter, Savannah Barton, escaped without injuries. Tatyanna's uncle, Mozack Green, arrived to find Robinson on a porch screaming that her children were inside.
Robinson told investigators and reporters she was in the bathroom when she heard a loud "whoosh." She said she stepped into the hall and saw black smoke and flames. But detectives were suspicious because Robinson, who said she tried to rescue her children, did not have a scratch or burn on her.
They also did not believe her story that the fire started when Anthony tipped over a lamp, breaking the bulb and igniting the fire.
Savannah told doctors at the Lowcounty Children's Center that she and Anthony were unsupervised and playing with lighters when he set a bed on fire in the home, police said. Investigators later confirmed that the fire started on a bed in Anthony's room, authorities said.
In her letter, Robinson questioned Anthony's ability to start the fire and accused police of badgering her family. She said investigators questioned Savannah for four hours and later took pictures at the funerals for her children.
Robinson said the real story is that she was a mom struggling with bipolar disorder and three children to manage. She said she had a "very stressful life" but was trying not to take her "meds" because she was responsible for the kids and the medication made her sleepy.
"It was hard for me a lot so I went to take a nap," she stated. "I was very tired and I thought they were sleeping. But I was wrong."
Spears said Robinson never called 911 that day and gave differing accounts of what happened. When given a chance to take a lie detector test, Robinson told a State Law Enforcement Division polygrapher that she had researched how to beat the test. She walked out before the test could be completed, Spears said.
Robinson later complained about the SLED tester and asked for another chance, Spears said. Police brought in an FBI polygrapher from Charlotte to administer new tests. She failed four times, and then admitted she wasn't in the home when the fire began, Spears said. She was smoking at a spot that didn't even have a view of the home, she said.
Spears said investigators handled the case by the book, and she denied that detectives grilled Savannah for hours. Because of her age, Savannah was interviewed by child specialists with the Lowcountry Children's Center, she said.