A six year-old LaSalle Parish girl tragically died early Wednesday morning, October 26, in a camper trailer fire and officials have arrested her mother in connection with the death.
Ayla Breeland, a first grader at Jena Elementary School, was pronounced dead at the scene of the fire that occurred at 148 Segrest Road, located just off the Pleasant Hill Road, approximately 10 miles east of Jena.
Louisiana State Fire Marshal Chief Deputy Brant Thompson said his office’s investigation led to the arrest of the child’s mother in connection with the death.
“Our investigation revealed there was extreme negligence and a gross disregard for the safety of her six year-old daughter, which lead us to bring a charge against the mother,” Thompson said. “Wendy Blasingame, 29, was arrested Wednesday evening (October 26) and charged with one count of negligent homicide. She was booked into the LaSalle Parish Jail and is being held there without bond.”
The Chief Deputy noted that Ayla’s father had legal custody but had entered into some type of agreement with her mother that allowed her to stay with her mom at certain times.
Last Tuesday night, Ayla went to sleep on a mattress located in the slide out portion of a 10×25 travel trailer, which was where her lifeless body was found after the fire was extinguished early Wednesday morning, officials noted.
“At some point after Ayla went to sleep, her mother left the travel trailer, leaving her daughter sleeping alone inside the trailer,” Thompson said. “At 4:09 a.m., a neighbor called 911 reporting the fire of the travel trailer.”
Fire departments arrived at the scene to find the trailer consumed in flames.
“Our investigation has revealed two possible heat sources within the area of the fire’s origin,” Thompson said. “First, illegally energized electrical lines which had been ‘boot-legged’ from another residence and installed in a manner inconsistent with all codes and laws which made for an extremely hazardous situation.”
“Second, an electric space heater was in the camper positioned too close to the mattress where young Ayla was sleeping,” he continued. “These conditions, all in the immediate area of the origin of the fire, lead us to believe they are a major factor in the cause of this fire.”
Thompson said that other residences in the area where the camper was parked were discovered to also have been illegally using electricity, which the electrical company promptly terminated.
“As for the basis for the charge against Wendy Blasingame,” Thompson said, “the fact that she left her daughter unattended for such an extended period of time was one of the factors. In fact, she wasn’t even at the scene until some two and-a-half hours later.”
The chief deputy said someone had to go to a location several miles away and retrieve the mother.
“When she did finally arrive at the scene, it was obvious that she was under the influence of some type of intoxicant,” Thompson said. “We are still trying to construct the time-line concerning that night and at this point it is unclear how long the child was left alone.”
An autopsy was performed Thursday on Ayla’s body but Thompson said results are still pending at this time.
Negligent homicide in Louisiana is described as “the killing of a human being by criminal negligence.” Under Louisiana Law RS 14:32, the penalty is imprisonment “with or without hard labor for not more than five years, fined not more than five thousand dollars, or both.”
Thompson said the investigation is still ongoing.
He also thanked the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Scott Franklin for their assistance in the case.