A Philadelphia mom is being charged with false imprisonment after she allegedly locked her children in the basement of their home for nearly 14 hours.
On Sunday, April 27, police were contacted to come to the 1900 block of E. Atlantic Street around 1:30 p.m. When they arrived, the house was locked so they had to gain entry into the home through a second floor window, according to NBC Philadelphia.
Once inside, the police officers found four children- a 13-year-old boy, a 12-year-old girl, a 10-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy- locked inside the basement. Investigators say that the kids had been there since Saturday, April 26. According to police officials, one of the children had access to a cell phone, and that is how they were able to call for help.
“When they came out of the house they all ran right into the police van,” neighbor Victoria Sipes said. “It seemed like they were covering their face and it seemed like they were a little embarrassed and scared.”
According to Philly.com, in addition to the false imprisonment charges, 29-year-old Charnae Lee faces charges of unlawful restraint, endangering the welfare of a child, and recklessly endangering another person.
A news release reports that Lee told her children, at approximately midnight on April 26, to “carry their mattresses down to the basement and stay there.” While locked in the basement, authorities say the children were denied access to food, running water, a bathroom, or heat.
Investigators were later able to locate Lee, who admits to telling her children to go to the basement “for disciplinary reasons.” However, she claims that she did not know that the basement door was locked.
A family friend said that she locked them in the basement because one of them had stolen money from her.
“What kind of person does this to their kids?” asked Aphordite Sanchez. “That’s not even a type of punishment that you do.”
However, Snipes said Lee always seemed to be a very loving and attentive mother.
“She’s a very kind lady,” Sipes said. “She’s a very disciplined mom. And really, honestly, we’re all shocked. Because it doesn’t seem like something that she would do.”
“She’s a single mom going to school, going to work and trying to support her kids,” Sipes continued. “So it’s very hard for a mother to do that. So I think that it just caught up with her.”
Lee has been taken into custody and remains in jail on a $50,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in court on May 15.
While the children had no signs of physical abuse, they were taken to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children for observation. The will either be placed in the custody of other family members or DHS.
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