Thursday February 25 2:39 AM ET

Woman To Regain Custody of 4 Kids

Associated Press Writer

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - A judge said Wednesday a woman can regain custody of four children who were taken away from her after four other youngsters were suffocated over a seven-month span while in her care.

Prosecutors and attorneys for the family of Regina Moreland agreed that Mrs. Moreland's three adopted children and a granddaughter will be returned to her custody, Juvenile Court Judge Michael Murphy said. The children have been in foster care about eight months.

A coroner ruled that the deaths of the four children - ages 1 to 3 - were homicides by suffocation. Environmental causes such as carbon monoxide poisoning were ruled out. The deaths were in late 1997 and last June.

Police have said a child in the family may have been involved, but no charges have been filed, and the judge said no such evidence was presented to him.

The judge said psychological tests on Mrs. Moreland and the surviving children - ages 7, 8, 11 and 12 - showed ``this was the most reasonable and logical resolution of this matter.''

Murphy said that the four children will be returned to Mrs. Moreland as soon as possible but that some restrictions will be placed on the arrangement. Details are being worked out, he said.

Mrs. Moreland and prosecutor Jim Cole had no comment.

Mrs. Moreland was the grandmother of three of the children who died and a great-aunt of the fourth.

Her husband, Phillip, killed himself last March by swallowing a handful of antidepressants, and her daughter Jamila was killed in a car crash.

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.