Mom disputes accusation she left her children home alone before fire

ST. LOUIS – Four children rescued from a fire last week are now out of the hospital and in temporary foster care. Their mother, Crystal Ford, had her first day in court Thursday.

The prosecution and defense agreed to let her out of jail while she fights four child endangerment felonies.

The court record says she left her four children home alone, even saying she admitted she did. Her family, however, tells Fox 2 they have the proof she did not.

Pictures taken by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on August 15 captured the dramatic rescue. Four young children, all under the age of 4, were rescued by firefighters from a burning apartment where there were no adults.

Chelsie Phillips also lived there. She said Crystal never left her children alone.

“No sir,” she said. “Everybody put a helping hand into whatever if they stayed there.”

She said Crystal’s half-brother also lived in the apartment with his girlfriend. Chelsie said everyone was home when she left for work on the day of the fire, at 4 a.m.

“The kids were asleep, Crystal was asleep, her brother and sister was downstairs asleep,” she said.

She said Crystal had just been hired to start a new fast-food job that night.

“She was excited to start something new to get herself together,” Phillips said.

Crystal’s mom, Keeva Jones, told us by phone that her daughter left the apartment sometime around the lunch hour to get ready for her new job.

“It was going to be her first day at work,” she said. “I knew she was going to the store to get items for her children and things she may need that day.”

Jones says her daughter’s phone contains Facebook messages she believes shows her daughter did not leave her kids alone. Her half-brother—staying in the apartment—messaged shortly before the fire call came in.

It was 12:26 p.m. He wrote, “Aye sis ima get you the money when i find out where to get cash back”

Ford answered, “K i made a lil run yall left?

It was just 16 minutes before the fire call came in. A fire department spokesperson said a neighbor called 911 at 12:44 p.m.

The brother answered “Yea we left a lil while back,” at 1:21 pm, well after all four kids were rescued.

Crystal’s mom recorded a phone call with Crystal's half-brother and his girlfriend, challenging them about why they left.

“Who was the last person there with those children?” she said.

The brother answered, “Chelsie was there.”

Jones followed up: “Did you see her?”

The girlfriend spoke up, saying, “No, but I heard her. She was talking to the kids.”

The brother added, “My fiancé said she heard Chelsie upstairs talking to the kids.”

Chelsie says she can prove she was at work and there’s no way anyone could’ve believed she was with the children.

“Really, I just want him to come out and say his part so people will stop trying to put everything on Crystal,” she said. “I want him to tell the truth too. I want him to come clean the way he can.”

Under Thursday’s court agreement, Ford is barred from her children, who are now in temporary foster care during this court process. She’ll be back in court in a couple months.

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