Race bias found in jailing of African-American woman in fatal kitchen fire case

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Noni, 4, and Nylah, 18-months, who died in the fire.

In January 2015, an electrical contractor for London Square Apartments, a low-income housing complex in mid-town Tulsa, Okhlahoma, produced engineering reports showing dangerous violations of electrical codes he says contributed to a cooking fire that killed two small children. The fire has been blamed on a young African American woman now jailed (case number CF-2013-5838).

Carol L. Mersch, an Oklahoma author and business entrepreneur, followed the case and interviewed witnesses over the past two years. Extensive details and photographs were posted May 26 atwww.thebigroundtable.com/stories/a-trial-by-fire/.

The case of 25-year-old Miashah Moses, in jail more than two years since the November 2013 kitchen fire that killed her nieces Noni, 4, and Nylah, 18-months, raises questions about racial disparity in the Tulsa judicial system, Mersch found.

Miashah Moses was charged by then-District Attorney Tim Harris with two counts of second-degree murder for felony child neglect by “failing to provide proper supervision” of her nieces. Moses had left her London Square apartment for eight minutes to empty trash during which time the stove erupted in flames. Harris further alleged Miashah left to do more than empty the trash –she left to buy drugs from another tenant in London Square,Torrance Williams.

The family was devastated. Miashah’s younger sister, Keahmiee, the children’s mother, was inconsolable but defended her. “They were crazy about their ‘Auntie Mo’,” she said.  “My sister is not a murderer….she loved my kids.” When asked to appear at a March 2014 hearing, Williams testified the woman who approached him about drugs was a different woman, not Miashah.

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Similar Tulsa cases at that time had decidedly different outcomes.

In May 2014, Makayla Rhotenberry put her one- and two-year-old girls in a bathtub together and left the room for 10 minutes to start dinner. When she went back, the youngest was face down in the water. Makayla was charged with “failing to provide proper supervision,” a court document says. She was released on bond after serving only four days in jail and received a four-year suspended sentence.

In July 2014, Amber Alexander, police officer’s wife, failed to check on her two-year-old foster child for two hours from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. She then found the child drowned at the bottom of the family swimming pool. The toddler had gotten through an unlocked door and safety gate. No charges were ever filed.

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Supporters of Miashah are asking, “Is the tragedy of losing a child any less for the Moses family than for the Rhotenberry or Alexander families?” The difference in the three cases: Makayla and Amber are white.   

Famous (cq) Tankersley, owner of EWS LLC, a local electrical company, found defective wiring in rusted conduits with no grounding and defective breaker boxes allegedly ignored by London Square owner Paul Forkeotes and passed over by City of Tulsa electrical inspectors, who approved the buildings for occupancy.

“We were finding burnt wires inside live circuits,” Tankersley said. “Literally, there were melted down raw wires inside of a circuit that was still working.”

Internal emails reveal seven stove fires occurring after the Moses tragedy were handled internally by apartment maintenance workers and went unreported to the fire department.    Miashah faces a jury trial with 20 years to life in prison if convicted. Meanwhile, “There’s a young lady in jail right now who shouldn’t be there,” Tankersley said. – PRNewswire.

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