KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - Jurors have reached a verdict in the family court trial of a Kalamazoo mother who was trying to regain custody of her child following a house fire.
The jury found Jonetta Woods neglectful in the treatment of her 4-year-old daughter. They also found her boyfriend, Fred Glespie, neglectful of the same.
As a result, the court will take the case and further decide where the child will be placed and how she will be cared for.
Woods was trying to regain custody of her daughter who survived the fire at Interfaith Apartments on Feb. 18.
Woods' four children were left alone when the fire sparked.
Three-year-old twins Teniyah and Tevin Williams Jr., and 1-year-old Tyonna Henderson were found dead when the flames were doused, authorities said. The surviving daughter escaped out the back door.
Woods claimed she put her boyfriend, Fred Glespie, in charge of watching the children, a claim he said is not true.
The State argued that Woods neglected her children. On Wednesday, her attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the petition, saying the State hadn't proven a case of neglect. The judge denied that motion and the trial continued with more testimony, which ended during the late morning.
During closing arguments, prosecutors said that Woods' home was "unsafe" and "unfit" for children. The jury was left to decide if there was neglect involved when Woods' children died.
The Kalamazoo County prosecutor is in the process of reviewing potential criminal charges against Woods, which will have no effect on the custody case.
Below is a sequence of events Wednesday when the prosecution rested its case and Woods appeared on the witness stand --
"I asked Fred to watch the kids and I went across the street to give a friend money," Woods told the court. Woods then said she tried to get into the burning apartment.
"I tried to save my kids. I was just so scared and crying."
The prosecution cross-examined Woods who said she was gone 10 to 15 minutes and then saw smoke coming from the apartment building.
"Fred had watched the kids a lot of times," Woods said.
Woods testified she knew Tevin was fascinated with turning the stove on, so Woods removed the knobs from the appliance.
Sources told 24 Hour News 8 one of the children may have accidentally set something on fire from the stove that may have been left on.
Woods was dismissed from the witness stand, and the defense called another witness to testify.
Woods was then called back to the witness stand to answer some questions from the jury.
A neighbor and friend, LaToya Lesley, testified that Woods and Glespie had a "spat" the morning of the fire.
A woman who watched the kids for a few minutes while Woods and Glespie were picking up a television then testified. The friend said Woods said, "I have to leave. I'll be back."
The friend said Glespie replied "OK."
Charlonda Woods, Jonetta's sister, then testified Wednesday, and was followed on the witness stand by Glespie.
Glespie said his relationship with Jonetta Woods is "complicated." He said no one was watching the kids when he and Jonetta went to her sister's nearby to get that television, which is contrary to others' testimonies.
Glespie said after they picked up the TV, Jonetta never asked him to stay and watch the kids while she went across the street.
"She didn't tell me what she was doing," said Glespie. He was changing at his sister's apartment, he said.
Glespie testified he was going to take some movies back to Jonetta's residence and stopped to talk to a friend.
Meanwhile, no one was inside the apartment with the kids.
"She never said 'Watch the kids' or I would have did it," said Glespie.
The court then took a short recess before starting the closing arguments, which included Glespie's attorney saying Glespie was not responsible for the children.
Woods' attorney said Woods and Glespie were in a relationship and he had a responsibility to watch the kids when she walked across the street to the friend's house.
Stay with 24 Hour News 8 throughout the day for the latest developments from court.
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