Mother charged with murder of 6-year-old after house fire in Union

The child’s grandmother sustained burns to about 51 percent of her body.
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 3:40 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2022 at 10:41 AM EDT
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UNION, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A mother is charged in the death of her six-year-old daughter 18 months after she set her house on fire in Union, according to Union Police.

Police said officers were dispatched to a home on Second Avenue for a house fire with possible entrapment on November 25, 2020, at about 5:40 p.m.

Upon arrival, units found the house to be fully involved with fire already coming from the windows and front door. They said one burn victim, the child’s grandmother Barbara Newton, was outside the home. The child was still inside the home.

Police said 32-year-old Carlene Ratcliffe set fire to her own home and left the house as her child was asleep inside. Newton was out shopping at the time of the fire and saw the fire once she returned home. She tried to run inside to rescue the child but was unsuccessful. Newton sustained serious burns to about 51 percent of her body as a result and was flown to the Augusta Burn Center for treatment.

The heat radiating from the house made it difficult for firefighters and officers to enter the home and two of them sustained burn injuries during the attempts. One officer suffered a burn to his left hand and a firefighter suffered a burn to his back and shoulders. Both were treated at the scene.

Once the fire was put out a child was found dead in the home who was identified as six-year-old Caeli Ratcliffe.

According to the medical examiner, Caeli died as a result of smoke and soot inhalation.

After a long investigation, Ratcliffe was charged with two counts of arson and one count of homicide by child abuse and one count of murder.

MORE ON THIS STORY: Coroner: 6-year-old girl dies after house fire in Union