Author Elyssa Cherney

Child welfare officials offered new details Monday into the death of a 3-year-old foster child in an apartment fire last month, but a Juvenile Court judge expressed skepticism over the account, saying police must continue investigating the “bizarre” circumstances.

Maqkwone Jones, who was in the custody of a relative, died July 8 after firefighters found him alone and locked inside a burning apartment in the Grand Crossing neighborhood.

Since then, authorities have been sorting through conflicting versions of how the tragedy unfolded and investigating whether neglect played a role in Maqkwone’s death. Maqkwone, two brothers ages 8 and 9 and a 2-year-old sister had been in the foster care of their mother’s cousin since September 2017 when their mother was investigated for child abuse and neglect, according to the Department of Children and Family Services.

In court Monday, Maqkwone’s birth mother cried and hyperventilated at times as a public defender stood by her side. The woman said she and her children are suffering as they wait for more answers about Maqkwone’s death.

“I’m not OK. As a mother, I’m not going to be OK,” she said. “My son is dead through grown people, and it’s not fair. Everyone keeps saying stories that are changing.”

Judge Patrick Murphy, who is overseeing the siblings’ case in the child protection division, has called multiple hearings to demand more information from DCFS officials. On Monday, DCFS Guardian Janet Ahern offered the first detailed account of how Maqkwone ended up alone at the time of the fire.

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