CHICAGO (CBS) -- Her story made headlines – a young mother arrested on accusations of living in a filthy, abandoned apartment with her seven children.
But suddenly, all the charges against her were dropped.
On Thursday night, CBS 2's Jermont Terry had an exclusive look at what Jessie Hunt said was really going on behind closed doors.
As everyone else celebrated the New Year of 2021, Hunt was not finding anything to cheer about.
"I was in jail," she said.
She was locked up on accusations of neglecting her seven children.
Hunt: "Because they said my children were left alone unattended."
Terry: "Were they left alone?"
Home was East Garfield Park. The first-floor apartment of a West Side duplex was where Hunt and her children lived from last August until police were called on Jan. 1.
Hunt said her children's father had worked out an agreement with the landlord to stay through February.
"There was gas and lights because it was in my name, and so we were paying him rent for being there," Hunt said.
But she said a disagreement quickly undid the verbal deal.
"He wanted us out of the building and we weren't agreeing on leaving, due to his circumstances," Hunt said. "So he made a call, I guess, and said that it was some squatters in the building - and so the police was called."
The 911 call was placed when it was clear Hunt was not home. At the time, Chicago Police said the apartment was filthy and there was no working plumbing.
That is a starkly different story than the one told by pictures obtained by CBS 2 – showing gifts under a Christmas tree inside the same apartment exactly one week before.
And then there's Christmas Day home video of happy children as their mom sang "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and opening gifts on Christmas Day. We have concealed their identities.
Keep in mind that all this was just seven days before the call of squalid conditions was made to the CPD.
Terry: "So you were not living in a situation where your children were without – or were they without?"
Once police found the children, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services opened an investigation.
Terry: "As of today, that case is what?"
The DCFS will check up on the family for another nine months. But Hunt admits there are scars left from what she and her children endured.
"What mother wants to hear people saying bad things about her when don't nobody know my situation or my struggle? Don't nobody know what I go through taking care of seven kids by myself with a health condition?" Hunt said. "I've got heart failure. I have a 2-year-old with a bad kidney as well, so I have my days."
Hunt knows some may question a woman being just 32 and already having seven children.
"No, I'm not ashamed of my seven kids," Hunt said.
But she remains determined to keep them all under the same roof – a roof she now has.
"The pastor with his good graces has blessed us with a five-bedroom house," Hunt said.
The gracious pastor she was talking about is the Rev. Donovan Price of Street Pastors.
Upon first hearing about Hunt's story, Price told us, "Some people just need a hand up."
Two months later, Price was able to get Hunt and her children a house – rent and utilities free - for one year. The spirit of Chicago gave Hunt the foundation she needs to rebuild.
"I believe that God's involvement allowed me to move, and so I simply moved as a result of what I know God is able to do all the time," Price said.
Terry asked Price whether he thought the seven children would still be with Hunt without the home she now has.
"I don't know," he said, "but it definitely helped civilly - and that's a great thing."
"My hope is to just get my kids back to the regular life that they used to have," Hunt said.
With the courts dropping misdemeanor charges against Hunt, the mother will now focus on finding a job and making sure the children have stability moving forward.
Meanwhile, many in the community helped out Pastor Price by getting new furniture – including individual beds in the home. That is something the kids never had before.
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