Crusader Staff Report
A woman whose children were killed in a Gary fire on Sunday, March 25 has been charged with neglect while the future of dozens of residents from the Lakeshore Dunes complex where the fire occurred remains uncertain.
Police said Kristen Gober, 33, left her three young children alone in their apartment for “an extended period of time.” At some point, a kitchen fire broke out in her Lakeshore Dunes apartment in the 5800 block of Forest Court in Gary, IN.
Over 100 residents were displaced when the fire broke out on the fourth floor of the structure. Gober’s 6-year-old son Justen escaped the fire, according to police. But the Lake County coroner said two of her children, 2-year-old Kailani Gober and 4-year-old Khristopher Gober, died of smoke inhalation and burns.
Another child, 8-year-old Monty Spencer, survived the fire when he jumped from a fourth-floor window into blankets his neighbors were holding below.
Kristen Gober was taken into custody for outstanding warrants, police said. She is now additionally charged with neglect of a dependent causing death, neglect of a dependent and possession of marijuana.
On Wednesday morning, March 28, Gober was denied bond in a court appearance.
According to court documents, Justen said the fire started after he and his 4-year-old half-brother, Kristopher, put a blanket on the stove. Justen told police all three kids hid under a blanket before he ran away leaving Kristopher and 2-year-old Kailani alone in the apartment.
Last week, Christopher Hardin was in court fighting for full custody of his son, Kris, who did not survive.
“It broke me apart to know that my son was actually calling out for help and she refused to do it,” Hardin told ABC7 Chicago. “I felt like I failed him as a father, because I tried to do it the right way by going through the system and the system failed me and I failed him and it’s tearing me apart every day.”
The father said his son’s last words to him were “Daddy I want to come, can I come with you? Daddy I come with you?”
The court document also revealed that Gober told police she went back to the apartment to try to save her children. She said she heard the kids, but the flames kept her back so she left.
Meanwhile residents of the complex are scrambling for a place to stay while property owners make plans to repair the damage from the fire. They were temporarily placed in the Majestic Star Casino Hotel after they were forced to leave their units. A bus took them to the hotel with some of their belongings.
On Tuesday, March 27, the displaced residents attended a meeting where the Red Cross, Calumet Township and the Gary Community School Corp. offered their services.
Residents were told that they will be at the hotel for just two days and will be placed in shelters until their complex is safe and habitable enough to return. Some residents whose units were further away from the fire were allowed to return to their units after Tuesday.
Valerie Sanders, 26, said she went to the store Sunday and discovered something was wrong when she returned home.
“I didn’t smell any smoke when I left but when I came back, I saw everyone outside and that’s when I saw the smoke,” Sanders said. “I’m glad I got out safe.”
Another tenant, Antwain Ticer, 43, celebrated his birthday the day before the fire. He said his fiancee’s sister called him about the fire while he was driving from Wisconsin.
“I’m like wow are the kids ok?” Ticer said. “I heard kids were jumping from the building.”