ST. LOUIS — The mother of four children who were rescued from a dramatic fire this week was charged Friday with four felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Crystal D. Ford, 27, of the 1300 block of Ohio Avenue, was being held without bond at the St. Louis City Justice Center downtown. Jail authorities said Ford was also held on multiple outstanding warrants for less serious alleged offenses.
The fire in her home, a three-family flat west of Lafayette Park, broke out shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday and soon captured the attention of the city. Her children, all under age 4, were home alone. Officials said emergency responders found three of the children in cardiac arrest and revived them. The children suffered from smoke inhalation.
Extended family members identified Ford and Keith J. Witherspoon Jr., 33, as the parents. They said the couple had a tumultuous relationship and that the family had been reported to the Missouri Department of Social Services about 30 times in recent years.
“No action. No one cares,” said Ida Ford, 82, great-grandmother of the children and a former 5th Ward Democratic committeewoman in St. Louis. “They should have had a thorough investigation.”
Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the state agency, declined to comment.
According to a probable cause statement filed Friday, Crystal Ford admitted to leaving the children in the residence unattended before Thursday’s fire broke out. Detective Julie Johnson said in court documents that the children had been alone “for an extended period of time.”
Ford and Witherspoon returned home Thursday shortly after the children had been pulled from the fire.
Ford was charged with four counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child creating substantial risk, class B felonies.
She was also being held on municipal warrants, including alleged accumulation of rubbish and garbage in Independence, Missouri, shoplifting in Jennings and stealing in Maplewood.
Witherspoon couldn’t be reached for comment. Two stores near the apartment he shared with Ford on Ohio Avenue said he wasn’t welcome there. He’s due in court next week for two cases, one for misdemeanor stealing from Target, the other for felony possession of a controlled substance.
According to court records, he’s done stints in jail and prison for resisting arrest, tampering with a motor vehicle, property damage and possession of a defaced firearm.
Witherspoon hasn’t been charged with a crime associated with the fire, just Ford.
“She needs a lawyer,” said her grandmother, Ida Ford.
She and the rest of Ford’s extended family were unsure what was going to become of the four children, but they were thankful the children survived the fire.
Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
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