Mother charged with murder after 3 children killed at Paulding home

Darlene Nicole Brister, 40, was charged with two counts of malice murder and is being held without bond in a Paulding County jail. Her charges stem from a house fire Friday night in which three children died and another was hospitalized with burn wounds, Paulding fire officials confirmed.

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Darlene Nicole Brister, 40, was charged with two counts of malice murder and is being held without bond in a Paulding County jail. Her charges stem from a house fire Friday night in which three children died and another was hospitalized with burn wounds, Paulding fire officials confirmed.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated another child had died; however, law enforcement officials had received and released incorrect information.

A Paulding County mother was in jail Sunday after she allegedly tried to stab several children as a house burned Friday night, according to authorities. Three of those children have died.

Darlene Brister, 40, is charged with two counts of malice murder following the deaths. It was not immediately clear if Brister started the fire, as officials did not confirm and she has not been charged with arson, but the sheriff’s office indicated that more charges are likely to be filed as the investigation continues. On Sunday afternoon, law enforcement officials confirmed she was the mother of the victims.

The tragedy unfolded at a Rockmart home in the 700 block of Woodwind Drive in west Paulding, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Tyler McSwain.

Deputies received a call at 9:19 p.m. for a “domestic disturbance” at the residence. The caller told 911 dispatchers that a woman was inside the home trying to stab the other occupants and the house was on fire, according to McSwain.

When deputies and firefighters arrived, they entered the burning home to rescue the occupants and found seven children inside. Two children died at the scene, Paulding County Fire-Rescue spokesman Lt. Steve Mapes said.

They were a 3-year-old with apparent multiple stab wounds and a 9-month-old, according to the sheriff’s office. Three others, ages 5, 9 and 11, were transported to local hospitals, McSwain said.

The remaining two children, ages 14 and 16, did not appear to have injuries. The 5-year-old who was transported to the hospital later died.

One of the other hospitalized children had a leg injury, Maples said. The other had burn wounds and remained in critical condition Sunday, police said.

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Three children died in a fire at this Rockmart home in the 700 block of Woodwind Drive late Friday night.

Credit: Alexis Stevens

Three children died in a fire at this Rockmart home in the 700 block of Woodwind Drive late Friday night.

Credit: Alexis Stevens

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Three children died in a fire at this Rockmart home in the 700 block of Woodwind Drive late Friday night.

Credit: Alexis Stevens

Credit: Alexis Stevens

Paulding County fire investigators, sheriff’s office detectives, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and GBI agents are investigating the fatal blaze.

“Investigators diligently went to work to make sense of the chaotic scene,” McSwain said in the release.

Deputies found Brister on the property uninjured and subsequently arrested her.

“They bring the kids out dead and she is still hiding in the house,” neighbor Willie Hayes told Channel 2 Action News. “It’s pitiful.”

Neighbors told the news station the family moved into the house about five years ago, but Brister didn’t interact much with others in the community.

“She doesn’t talk to anyone,” neighbor Edward Swinger said.

Hayes said they would see the family but didn’t communicate with them.

Officials did not release the victims’ names or ages Sunday but noted that all five victims are children.

On Saturday afternoon, after investigators had already left, crime scene tape still encircled the yellow two-story house. Most of the fire damage appeared to be in the rear of the home, but burned siding was visible above the front door.

At the foot of the roadside mailbox, a small makeshift memorial with candles and stuffed animals had begun to collect.

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A makeshift memorial was started Saturday, June 25, 2022, after a fatal fire at a Paulding County home claimed the lives of children. (Photo: Alexis Stevens / AJC)

Credit: Alexis Stevens

A makeshift memorial was started Saturday, June 25, 2022, after a fatal fire at   a Paulding County home claimed the lives of children. (Photo: Alexis Stevens / AJC)

Credit: Alexis Stevens

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A makeshift memorial was started Saturday, June 25, 2022, after a fatal fire at a Paulding County home claimed the lives of children. (Photo: Alexis Stevens / AJC)

Credit: Alexis Stevens

Credit: Alexis Stevens

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office criminal investigations division tip line at 770-443-3047. Tipsters can also use the Sheriff’s Office’s mobile app.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.