Woman sentenced in apartment ‘shrine fire’
BY BILL BIRD email@example.com January 22, 2013 10:08PM
Sunitha Budithi, 40, has been placed on court supervision and ordered to serve in a DuPage County work program in connection with a May 2011 fire that started in a shrine she had created inside her home in Woodridge.
Updated: January 25, 2013 9:40AM
A woman from Woodridge has been ordered to serve in a DuPage County work program following a fire in her apartment nearly two years ago that was ignited by a makeshift religious shrine.
Sunitha Budithi lived at the time in the Lincoln at Seven Bridges apartment complex near Naperville’s far east side. She was charged with two misdemeanor counts of endangering the health or life of a child following the May 19, 2011 blaze.
The case against Budithi, 40, had been continued from last spring to Wednesday in DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton. It was advanced during the interim to Jan. 7, according to court records.
Budithi that day pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct/breach of peace, records showed. The second child endangerment count was dismissed in exchange for her plea, records indicated.
Judge Jane H. Mitton ordered Budithi to serve five days in the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program, or SWAP. Mitton also placed Budithi on two years of court supervision, according to records.
A Woodridge police spokeswoman in 2011 said Budithi was arrested following the fire in her first-floor unit in the apartment complex at 6685 Double Eagle Drive near Route 53.
Budithi was originally accused of leaving two girls under the age of 10 inside the apartment and then going out to move a car from one part of the complex’s parking lot to another, the spokeswoman said.
A candle or incense burner was lighted and left unattended at a shrine that had been erected inside the apartment’s hallway closet. An “open flame in the proximity of combustible material” ignited the blaze, a Lisle-Woodridge Fire District official said in 2011.
Two fire medics rescued the children from a bedroom adjacent to the burning closet. The girls were released from Edward Hospital in Naperville after undergoing treatment there for smoke inhalation.
A firefighter suffered a minor cut battling the flames. No one else was injured, although 25 residents of the complex were forced out of their homes for about two hours while the fire was being extinguished.
Officials of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took temporary custody of the girls before placing them in the care of a relative.
The relationship between Budithi and the children was not known.
Court documents indicated Budithi had no prior criminal record in DuPage County.