Parents charged in house fire that killed toddler Levi Welton in Sterling

Documented risks in home where boy died

STERLING, Colo. - The parents of a toddler killed in a house fire in January have been charged.

The Sterling Journal Advocate is reporting that Julia Welton, 27, and Christopher Welton, 33, were indicted by the 13th Judicial District grand jury on charges of negligent child abuse resulting in death, negligent child abuse and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Documents obtained by the CALL7 Investigators showed that despite testing positive for marijuana and living in a home considered a fire risk, Levi was not removed from the home by the Logan County Department of Human Services.

Levi, 2, was found dead January 17 after a fire at his family's home in Sterling. Firefighters said he was in an open closet without a pulse and was not breathing.

The fire started in a pile of clothes and blankets under a window in the room where Levi and his 5-year-old brother Dean were unattended, sources familiar with the investigation told CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia. A lighter was also found in the room, but investigators do not know if it was used to start the fire.

Ferrugia's investigation into the case uncovered disturbing documents the family shared with others in the community. The Logan County Department of Human Services papers show the home was previously considered a fire risk. Both boys also tested positive for THC, that active ingredient in marijuana, more than once, but the most recent positive test was just hours before the fatal fire in January.

And yet the Department of Human Services did not remove the boys from the home.

A similar positive drug test in November 2013 caused the department to file a Dependency and Neglect Motion in court, sources told Ferrugia. It cited lack of supervision, drug use and inappropriate people visiting the home.

Caseworkers "found little white pills on the floor and in Levi Welton's hand."

Another "observed Julia Welton smoking a cigarette which she brushed along the wall, causing red ash to fall on the carpet of the kitchen. She did not notice it until the caseworker pointed them out to her and asked her to take care of them due to the fire hazard," a report said.

A cigarette butt on the floor was also noted.

The court appointed a legal guardian for the children and put a safety plan in place. The children were also temporarily taken out of the home, but were returned last month.

As late as Jan. 9 -- just five days before the fire -- there was supposed to be a safety plan in place that included notifying human services of who was visiting the house.

Sources say Levi's mother legally smokes marijuana for a painful medical condition. However, her husband also tested positive for THC, along with the children.

On the night of the fire, many people were in the home and some were smoking marijuana, sources also say. Meanwhile, Levi was left unattended with his brother in the bedroom where the fire began.

Print this article Back to Top