Philadelphia Police charged a mother overnight after she allegedly locked her four children inside the basement of her Kensington home for 12 hours as punishment.
Police were called to a home on the 1900 block of E. Atlantic Street around 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Officials said the home was locked. Fire crews gained entry by breaking through the second floor bedroom window.
Once inside they found a 13-year-old boy, 12-year-old girl, 10-year-old girl and 9-year-old girl locked inside the basement. Investigators said the kids had been locked inside since Saturday.
One of the children had a cellphone that only dialed out to 911 which is how police were notified, according to officials.
"When they came out of the house they all ran right into the police van," said Victoria Sipes, a neighbor. "It seemed like they were covering their face and it seemed like they were a little embarrassed and scared."
The children had no visible bruises but were taken to St. Christopher's Hospital for an examination, police said. They will either be placed in the custody of other family members or DHS. They spent time late Sunday playing at police Special Victims Unit headquarters as police questioned their mother, Charnae Lee.
Lee told police she told her children to take their mattresses into the basement as a form of punishment but she didn't realize the door was locked, said police. Lee then went to work.
Investigators charged Lee with unlawful restrain, false imprisonment, reckless endangerment and child endangerment.
A family friend told NBC10 Lee locked her kids in the basement as punishment because one of them stole money.
"What kind of person does this to their kids?" asked Aphordite Sanchez. "That's not even a type of punishment that you do."
Neighbors told NBC10 they never noticed any problems inside the home and described the mother as attentive and loving.
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"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."
Sipes believes Lee was just using bad judgment.
"She's a single mom going to school, going to work and trying to support her kids," Sipes said. "So it's very hard for a mother to do that. So I think that it just caught up with her."