Chelsea’s life with her “mother” wasn’t easy. Anita wanted a family – more specifically a husband. She led little Chelsea to believe that they were biologically related. But when Anita had a man in her life, she ignored her daughter and seemingly turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse Chelsea suffered starting at the age of ten.
Jimmy Peterson had been Chelsea’s last abuser. She’d been 15 at the time that he moved in with Anita.
“That house was clocked in evil,” said former neighbor Betty Wallace. “I’d hear that poor child crying out for help at night. When I tried to talk to Anita, she told me to mind my damn business. I tried to call the authorities but they didn’t follow up.”
Then the fire happened. Details of that night are sketchy, but Anita and Jimmy were locked in the basement as the house burned. It was ruled an arson and Chelsea was the only suspect. When the story made the papers, her aunt Lucy Washington found her. Lucy had been Chelsea’s real father’s sister and she ran a successful catering business in New York City. She went to court on her niece’s behalf and promised the judge that she would provide a stable home for the girl.
She even changed Chelsea’s last name and it looked as if things were going to turn around for her. But Chelsea was damaged and her aunt never followed up on the court ordered therapy. Chelsea grew angrier as the years passed. She dropped out of school, despite the fact that she was a brilliant child with an IQ of 150.
Life with Lucy meant a lot of work for Chelsea and little reward. Her clothes were hand me downs and she had a few burn scars on her neck from the fire. Chelsea blended in the background and her aunt reminded her of that a lot.
Chelsea was trying to earn money to get a place of her own, but Lucy stopped paying her right before Solomon Crawford’s ill-fated wedding. Crawford had been abandoned at the altar and according to one of the other workers, he and Chelsea had an encounter in the kitchen.
“She acted as if he was a superstar,” said Damien Bright. “He was drunk and cussing. Knocked the cake over and fell on her. You would’ve thought it was the highlight of her life. She helped him out of the center through a back door and from that day on, she was all about that man. Lucy told her she wasn’t in his league. She told her that the only thing she’d ever be able to do for Solomon Crawford is change the sheets at his hotel. Said that in front of everyone and little Chelsea socked her. It was such a shock. Next thing we know, Lucy was missing.”