A judge fought back tears Wednesday as he sentenced a pregnant Del City woman to 18 years in prison for the deaths of three of her children in a motor home fire, calling it one of the “saddest” cases he's ever presided over.
Stephanie Mae Dunham, 27, her hands and arms scarred from burns, cried throughout the proceeding.
“These babies are my life,” she told Oklahoma County District Judge Jerry Bass. “I did everything for them.”
Prosecutors disagreed, saying Dunham and her husband chose drugs over their kids and it “cost them their lives.”
“She was doing meth the day her three children burned to death,” Assistant District Attorney Pamela Stillings said.
The prosecutor told the judge the defendant's husband acknowledged manufacturing methamphetamine inside the motor home.
As Dunham left the courtroom in handcuffs, she screamed at reporters: “It's not fair. I'm the one who has to suffer without my kids.”
Dunham avoided a trial by pleading no contest in May to three counts of child neglect. She also pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor drug charges and a felony charge of possessing methamphetamine in the presence of a child younger than 12.
Prosecutors alleged she left the children alone in the mobile home, locking the door with a hasp, or latch, that trapped them inside when the fire broke out.
Killed in the Jan. 4, 2011, fire were Christopher Lee Dunham Jr., 4; Crystal Ann Dunham, 3; and Kailey Mae Dunham, 1.
The family lived in the mobile home, getting electricity from a nearby house.
A jury convicted Christopher Lee Dunham, 26, on similar charges. Bass also sentenced him to 18 years in prison.
Prosecutors alleged he left the children in their mother's care with knowledge of her drug use and bipolar disorder.
The children died of burns and smoke inhalation; one of the children was found next to the door clutching the family's dog. The youngest child's charred body was found on the front seat of the vehicle.
The judge called it one “saddest” cases he has ever presided over.
“It ranks right up there,” Bass told the defendant, who is pregnant with her fifth child by Christopher Dunham.
The judge blamed methamphetamine for the defendant's downfall.