Toddler's death ruled accidental

Leshay Yates
Leshay Yates

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - The death of a Petersburg toddler has been ruled accidental by he state medical examiner's office.

Two-year-old Leshay Yates died from "thermal and inhalational injuries," when her home caught fire just a after midnight on Monday. Now, the little girl's parents are blaming the mental health system for the toddler's death.

Leshay's parents say, her 7-year-old brother, who has behavioral health problems, started the fire.

They say they've tried, with no luck, to get the boy placed in a residential mental facility.

"He's killed animals. He snuck out of the house of Christmas Eve night because he said the voices told him to do it," said Leshay's mother, Wendy Petree.

Cecil and Wendy say they've tried to get their son placed in a facility.

"Every time I tried something we'd hit a wall -- they say there's nothing we can do," she added.

The little boy was seeing a therapist.

Wendy and Cecil say they reached out to Social Services and District 19, which provides mental health, and other services for adolescents.

"Unfortunately, in the state of Virginia, we do have kids who fall through the cracks and that has to do with the structure of the system," said Sherri Diven, Director of Child & Adolescent Services with District 19.

The organization wouldn't talk specifically about the Yates case.

"If the child is screened, we call it pre-screened, and it's determined they meet clinical eligibility to be hospitalized in a psych unit. We're going to assist them -- contact a hospital and get them a bed," said Diven.

Nicole Bell: "At what point do you decide the kid is a threat and he needs to be removed from the home for the safety of everyone?"

"When folks are in there doing intense in home treatment -- they'll evaluate that on a continual basis," Diven added.

Cecil and Wendy say it took a tragedy to get their son the help he needs. The little boy has now been placed at a mental illness facility

NBC12 checked in with Petersburg fire investigators. They're not yet ready to say what caused the fire.

A funeral service for Leshay Yates is scheduled for Thursday at Noon. It will take place in Chester at the Bermuda Memorial Cemetery. The public is invited to attend.

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