CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A judge set bond at $1 million Tuesday for a mother charged with murder in connection with the deaths of two toddlers who died in a fire.

Orgal Opata is accused of leaving her four children home alone when a kerosene heater burned their house Sunday. Her two youngest children did not survive the fire.

Outside court Tuesday, the toddlers' father, Jerry Hawthorne, ran from cameras, but he called NewsChannel 36 later and said he is fighting for custody of the two older children who survived. Those children are now in the custody of the Department of Social Services.

Hawthorne said he is the children's stepfather and the only father they know.

Meanwhile, the community is rallying around the children, leaving stuffed animals outside their home on Rowan Street.

The children were very sweet children, very loving children that, unfortunately, had to deal with difficult circumstances as far as their upbringing, said Norman Kerry, pastor at nearby Thomasboro Chapell Church.

Kerry said people in the community have been coming to the church, asking how they can help the children.

Our phone really started ringing off the hook, Kerry said. Any time children are involved, I really think it pulls on the heartstrings, and people are concerned for surviving children.

Kerry says people have donated clothing and cash.

The humanity within us has risen to want to do something to try to ease the pain, to try to make a difference in their lives, Kerry said.

A funeral for the toddlers is scheduled for Saturday.

Police said Opata has not been cooperative in the investigation, and has refused to tell them where she was when the fire broke out early Sunday morning.

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