Mother of 2 children killed in West Chester fire pleads guilty to criminal charges

Four children where home alone when fire broke out, officials said.

A mother who was not home with her four children when a fire broke out in their West Chester Twp. apartment has pleaded guilty in Butler County Common Pleas Court to criminal charges after two of those children died.

Ashley J. Rhiles, 30, was indicted in March on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and four counts of felony child endangering, according to court records.

On Monday, Rhiles pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, third-degree felonies and two counts of child endangering, also third-degree felonies. She faces a maximum of 12 years in prison.

Rhiles remains housed in the Butler County Jail in lieu of $750,000 bond, which was set at the time of her arraignment last spring. Since her guilty pleas to lesser degrees of the involuntary manslaughter charges, the defense has requested a new bond hearing that is set for next week.

She is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 17 by Judge Noah Powers II.

Four children were home alone Sept. 17, 2022, when fire broke out around 12:15 p.m. in an apartment at the Meadow Ridge complex, 5259 Aster Park Drive, according to fire officials and prosecutors.

Two of the children, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, died a few days later.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Rhiles left the children in the residence unsupervised to do some shopping when the deadly fire occurred.

“It is a horrible case,” Gmoser said at the time of the indictment. “As a person, my heart goes out to her or any mother or father that would be in that situation. But as a prosecutor, I can’t make that call other than the fact she has to be prosecuted for it. To do anything less demeans parental responsibility that every parent has.”

Shortly after the fire, the township released two 911 calls reporting the fire, with one caller repeating what someone else near her at the scene was reporting.

“I see smoke and hear glass breaking; she said the windows are busting out and everything,” the female caller said. When the dispatcher asked if anyone was inside, “She said she don’t think so cause her car isn’t here.”

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