Author: Tribune Reporter

A 3-year-old Chicago boy, Maqkwone Jones, died in a South Side building fire on July 8. An adult who was in the apartment with him escaped — but didn’t realize he was at the home. By the time firefighters pounded down the locked door, it was too late.

How does this happen? And, once again, a question we often ask in these cases: Could this child’s death have been prevented?

This is the short life of Maqkwone as we know it: The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed him and three siblings from their mother’s care last fall. DCFS had determined that a complaint against the mother alleging abuse and neglect had merit, so the agency placed the children, all under the age of 10, with a female cousin. The mother faces two aggravated battery charges in a case that is pending, court records show.

Since then, case workers have been visiting the family regularly, including three days before the Sunday morning fire, according to DCFS.

The day of the fire, the cousin who has temporary custody of the children was not home. None of Maqkwone’s siblings were home. He was allegedly under the care of the cousin’s female roommate at the apartment. But the roommate didn’t know Maqkwone was in the apartment when the fire broke out. She ran outside when smoke alarms sounded, called the cousin — and then realized Maqkwone was stuck inside. How is that possible? We don’t know.

In tense exchanges last week between DCFS officials and Cook County Juvenile Court Judge Patrick Murphy, Murphy berated them for not being transparent about the boy’s history and the circumstances surrounding his death. He died on their watch. He was under the care of DCFS. Murphy wants answers. So do we.

DCFS so far has characterized the case as a tragic accident. Maqkwone and his siblings were having regular contact with case workers and some visitation with their biological mother. While the cousin was the subject of a hotline call to DCFS and questioned about adequate supervision earlier this year, DCFS determined the complaint to be unfounded.

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