Mom of three kids killed in West Allis fire appears in court

CREATED Apr 17, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - The mother accused of locking her children in a bedroom before they died in a fire made her initial court appearance Wednesday.

Angelica Belen walked into the courtroom in tears and handcuffs with her attorney by her side.

She faces three counts of child neglect leading to death.

New court documents reveal gut-wrenching details in the death of her daughter Nayeli, 5, and her two four-year-old twin boys, Alexis and Adrian.

Those documents showed they were locked in their bedroom.  The door was deadbolted and shut from the outside.

Belen told police she left the children home alone while she went to work that day, and she allegedly locked them away to keep them out of trouble.

"She not only leaves them unattended, but she does so in a way that basically locks them with a deadbolt in a room like animals," said prosecutor Michael Lonski.

"They're found under a dresser.  Two of them are charred beyond all recognition.  The third is charred except for his face."

"Belen made a decision to be able to earn some money to provide for her children," explained defense attorney Reyna Morales.

"She's the only person who was taking care of them."

Neighbors who saw the home catch fire were upset to hear the new details of how the children died.

"It's unbelievable they had to die that way," said Patrick Noonan, who lived in the neighborhood.

"All she had to do was call any neighbor," said another neighbor, Karen Raasch.  "We're all here. We all help each other."

A few weeks earlier, Belen faced charges of child neglect for leaving her children alone.

Now, many question why she had custody of them.

The Department of Children and Family Services has not returned TODAY'S TMJ4's call inquiring about that issue.

Belen's bail was set at $500,000 cash.  If she is convicted on all charges, she could receive up to 75 years in prison.