Critically injured mother charged after toddler killed in fire

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Criminal changes are pending against the mother of an infant who died after a Church Hill house fire last week.

Richmond police said 36-year-old Ava Marcus,  of the 1220 block of N. 30th Street, is facing two counts of threaten to burn. Marcus, who was injured in the blaze, remains in critical condition at VCU Medical Center.

But once she’s better, she will have to face a judge who will determine whether she can go home.

Marcus and her 18-month-old son were in the row house on North 30th Street when it caught fire Tuesday. She was on the roof of the house calling for help when fire crews arrived.

Police said the toddler, Atrell Marcus, died of his injuries over the weekend. The Medical Examiner will determine the exact cause and manner of death.

Detectives are working with arson investigators with the Richmond Fire Department on this ongoing investigation.

“They’re the types of charges that you charge only to hold someone,”  said CBS-6 legal expert Todd Stone. “So if she were to be released from the hospital, she wouldn’t go anywhere.”

Neighbor Kequan Henley who lives two doors down says he never saw this coming.  “She was nice people. She was over to our house a few times,” said Henley. “She seemed smart, even brilliant, actually. It’s surprising to see this happened.”

Other neighbors tell police hours before the fire, Marcus was seen talking to herself on her front porch and spraying cars as they passed on the street with a water hose.

A family friend who’s known Marcus for more than 15 years told me off-camera, the incident was out of character , saying Marcus, once she realizes young Atrell is gone, will be devastated.

“Charging her with communicating a threat to burn a house means they have enough evidence to support that, but they can bring up other charges such as arson, manslaughter or murder if the investigation leads them to that,” said Stone.

Both the fire marshal and RPD’s major crimes detectives are working this case.  The Richmond Medical Examiner’s office will soon determine the young boy’s cause of death.

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