3-year-old dies in apartment fire after babysitter leaves for store, investigators say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It was a tragic scene at the Cozumel Apartments in southwest Harris County after a fire took the life of a 3-year-old boy.

Firefighters arrived at the apartment complex around 1:30 a.m. in the 6400 block of Sierra Blanca Drive and found flames coming from one of the units.

The Harris County Fire Marshal's Office reported that a 19-year-old woman was babysitting her relative, Gio Lyles. She allegedly told investigators that she left the apartment to go to the store while Gio was sleeping, but when she got back, she saw heavy smoke coming from the apartment.

Investigators are working to verify the babysitter's story. The nearby mini-mart told Eyewitness News deputies requested its surveillance video.

Neighbors are waiting to find out why the toddler was left alone. Betty Jeffery left flowers, a balloon, and a stuffed animal outside the charred apartment.

"That's what makes it even worse to know that he couldn't even defend himself. He couldn't get out if he wanted to. That's terrible."

Fire officials said the fire started in the kitchen on the stove.

Gio was pronounced dead at Texas Children's Hospital West. The woman was taken to Ben Taub Hospital for smoke inhalation.

The fire marshal's office said it's too early to determine if charges will be filed. If they are, a spokesperson said they could range from child endangerment to murder.

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