MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- Crystal Jackson says she knew she had to step in after seeing deputies making multiple trips inside a Mechanicsville Walmart to provide for four young children.
The incident happened around 4:30 Thursday morning at the Walmart Supercenter store on Bell Creek Road, off of Mechanicsville Turnpike.
The kids were left alone in the parking lot in muggy early morning temperatures, inside a van, while deputies say their mothers were inside, shoplifting merchandise.
Deputies say Kiear Ellis, 24, and another woman were inside the store pulling a five-finger discount while the four children, ages one month, two years, and a pair of three-year-olds, were left alone.
"It was hot,” Jackson said. “I mean, I was sweating."
At the time of the incident, the temperature in Mechanicsville was 73 degrees.
And if it wasn't for the kindness of Jackson and the three Hanover deputies, she says we'd be telling a far different and more tragic story.
"They weren't police,” she said. “They were parents. I saw the officers going back and forth and one officer came back with a bottle."
Deputies say the children were inside the van for more than an hour. What bothers them more is when Ellis and the second suspect were arrested, the mothers never told them about the children.
"I bought formula and Pampers and the deputy mentioned CPS [Child Protective Services],” said Jackson. “I asked to see if I could find their family before getting CPS involved, and the deputy agreed."
Jackson says an aunt and grandmother came to get the children.
Aside from soiled Pampers and underwear, they were all in good shape.
Jackson, who runs a transportation company, says she's just glad she was in that parking lot, with what she calls three law enforcement angels. "They made sure these kids had food and didn't go hungry," she said.
Ellis is charged with felony grand larceny and three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment.
The other woman, whose name has not been released, has been charged with one count of petty larceny and one count of child endangerment. She has been released on summons because all of her charges are misdemeanors. CBS is working to get her name.