By Rick Plumlee
The Wichita Eagle
(MCT) The mother of a 6-year-old girl who died in a Wichita house fire last summer was granted probation by Judge Joseph Bribiesca.
"Miss Bell, this is a no-tolerance probation, do you understand?" Bribiesca told her of the 36-month probation period. "If you stand before me again, you will do your 75 months."
Ruthie Lee Bell, 28, was convicted last month after entering pleas of no contest to three counts of aggravated endangering a child. She also was convicted on two counts of aggravated interference with parental custody after pleading no contest to those charges.
Adrian Johnson, a 24-year-old co-defendant, will be sentenced by Bribiesca on Thursday morning to the same five charges. He pleaded guilty last month.
Johnson's relationship to Bell hasn't been established in open court.
Prosecutors have said Bell left the 6-year-old and her two sisters, ages 4 and 7, alone before the fire broke out in their southeast Wichita home about 7 p.m. on July 11. Ja'Kara Dickson died three days later.
Ja'Kara was playing with a lighter when she accidentally set her clothes on fire, authorities said.
She ran into her bedroom and pulled off her burning clothes, but her bed caught fire and the flames quickly spread. The two sisters were not seriously injured.
As for the charge of aggravated interference with parental custody, prosecutors have said that involved two children who were not at the house at the time of the fire. Both of those children were younger than the three sisters who were in the house.
The two children had been placed in state custody two days after the fire, prosecutors said. Bell and Johnson had regular contact with the two and knew where they were, but they didn't let the state know until Feb. 14.
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