Most parents send their kids to their rooms when they are acting up. But if you’re 29-year-old Charnae Lee of East Atlantic Street in Kensington, you send them to the basement. With their mattresses.
On Sunday afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., police received a 911 call from a child inside the home who said that he was locked in the basement along with his three siblings. Emergency personnel quickly showed up, climbed through a second floor window, and found the children locked in the basement: two boys ages 13 and 9 and two girls ages 12 and 10.
According to police, the kids explained that their mother sent them to the basement around midnight and told them to bring their mattresses with them. Police say that there was no food, no bathroom, no running water and no heat available to them. But what they did have was a cell phone that was only capable of dialing 911, and so they used it. Eventually. (We can’t blame them for not wanting to get dear old mom in trouble.)
Police rounded up Lee at her job at a local Marriott hotel on Sunday afternoon and brought her to the Special Victims Unit, where she told investigators that the kids were being bad on Saturday night and that she ordered them to sleep in the basement. But, she maintains, she didn’t realize the door was locked.
Lee has been charged with four counts each of unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child, and recklessly endangering another person. She is currently sitting in jail in lieu of $200,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 15th.
The children were evaluated at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
This appears to be Lee’s first major run-in with the law in Pennsylvania. In 2011, she was found guilty of harassment — a summary offense — in Berks County.
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