A Texas man who was charged in the gruesome death of a toddler who was found severely burned after her siblings put her inside an oven acknowledged that he and the children's mother left them alone, but only for a short while, KHOU-TV reports.
In an interview with the news station, Cornell Malone, 21, admitted that he and Racqual Thompson left her four small children—all under the age of 5—alone in their Houston apartment to get some pizza. While earlier reports said that the couple were gone for more than two hours, Malone insists that they were gone no longer than 45 minutes, when they returned home and smelled a strange odor.
"The kids were all crying," he said. "They pointed us to the kitchen."
The 21-year-old said that he and Thompson went to the kitchen and saw that the oven was turned over. When Malone lifted it, 19-month-old J'zyra Thompson fell out, severely burned.
"Her mom just kept crying, and I tried to help the baby, but she was already gone," Malone said.
J'zyra and her three siblings—two 3-year-olds and a 5-year-old—were all home alone at the time of the incident. Malone thinks that one of the children put J'zyra in the oven as a joke and it toppled over when they were trying to get her out.
Malone and Thompson were each charged with four counts of child endangerment.
"I'm scared," Malone said. "People in here look at me like I killed a child on purpose. I'm not a bad person. I just made a terrible choice."
Thompson's surviving children are currently in the custody of child-protective services.
Read more at USA Today.