NEW ALBANY, Indiana — A woman has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for driving while a passenger fired a flare that started a southern Indiana house fire in which three young siblings died.
A Floyd County judge ordered the maximum sentence for 19-year-old Kylie Jenks of New Albany during a court hearing Thursday. Jenks pleaded guilty in July to an arson conspiracy charge for her role in the January fire.
Jenks was charged with driving 18-year-old Cody Cashion to the New Albany home, where he shot off the flare that ignited the blaze that killed 2-year-old Trinity Hughes, 4-year-old Tyrese Hughes and 6-year-old Tai'zah Hughes and burned their sister, who was then 5.
Jenks sniffled as she read from a sheet of paper during her sentencing hearing, The Courier-Journal reported.
"I'm ashamed of myself, and my lack of strength to say 'no,'" she said. "I'm terribly sorry. I ended up making a bad decision that turned into the worst mistake of my life."
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owen said Jenks and others in the car were "trying to be like little gangsters."
Authorities say Cashion shot the flare seeking revenge against a man who the group believed had gone back on a promise to sell stolen goods for them. That man wasn't in house at the time, while the siblings and their mother were visiting the home.
Cashion was sentenced in August to 65 years in prison on three murder counts. Another passenger, Shelby Makowsky, 18, of Clarksville, also pleaded guilty to an arson conspiracy charge and was sentenced in May to 20 years in prison.
The children's mother, Theresa Hughes, and their grandmother, Marie Clark, each gave emotional pleas before Judge Terrence Cody on Thursday asking for the maximum sentence against Jenks.
Clark told the News and Tribune after the hearing that family members were pleased with the sentencing.
"We are just relieved because now we feel like we got justice times three for our babies," Clark said. "I do feel some closure, but the pain has not subsided."