Excerpts from court documents:
Mercedes Rochelle Glisan, age eight years, was taken into protective custody on January 31, 1986 by Bakersfield Police Department Officer Don Martin. Early that evening, he had been dispatched to the scene of a fire accidentally set by the minor who had been left unsupervised by her mother, Valerie Glisan.
According to Officer Martin’s report:
“On 01-31-86 at about 1920 hours, I was dispatched to 5101 Marsha, Apt 116, in regards to a fire which had occurred there. Upon arrival, I met with Captain Gocher (phonetic) for the Fire Prevention and Arson Investigation Division. He stated fire department personnel had just investigated and put out a fire in which Apt. 116 had been totally destroyed. Gocher stated through his investigation , he found that an eight year old female had been left alone at the residence. He stated in talking with the juvenile, she is constantly being left unsupervised by her mother and that the fire started as a result of the juvenile being left alone. I contacted the juvenile, Mercedes Glisan, and asked her what happened in regards to the fire. She told me that she had been left alone by her mother since about 3:30 pm. and she did not know where her mother was. Mercedes stated the power went off in the residence and it was dark, so she lit several candles inside the residence to provide light for herself. Mercedes stated she left the candles on, forgetting to blow them out and she went outside to play and then went out to a neighbor’s house. she said sometime later, she came back and saw smoke coming from the apartment, at which time a neighbor had notified the fire department who was responding to the fire. Mercedes told me that she is always left unattended by her mother as her mother leaves the apartment and goes to the Matchmaker Bar and several other places, and she does not know where her mother goes on these occasions.”
“I talked to Mercedes’ mother Valerie Glisan. She told me the reason she was not at her residence was because she had vehicle problems and her vehicle broke down on California and Stockdale. She stated she then had her vehicle fixed, at which time she responded back to the residence. She stated she does not leave her child alone but then talking with the child, she does state she is left alone numerous occasions. Valerie Glisan changed her story when I asked her again. She stated she has left Mercedes unattended several times but it is not her fault as she is always looking for work.”
Most of this is accurate. But what it fails to tell you is what really happened. My mom often left me alone. She left me alone so often that I rarely attended school and I ran amok through the neighborhood, which was nothing but apartment complexes. This particular night, as she left me, she gave me specific instructions to go directly to my friends house. Clearly, I did not. Instead, I messed around the apartment and discovered a plastic candle holder and mirror which was meant to be mounted on the wall with fake candles. I mounted them, attempting to fancy up the apartment for my mom and stuck REAL candles in them and lit them. THEN, the lights went out. I tried to check the breaker (because at 8 I was already an electrician). After I realized I couldn’t turn the lights back on, I went to my friends house, forgetting about the lit candles.
Some time later, I don’t remember how long, there was banging on her door. A man was yelling FIRE!!! and we all ran out of the apartment. I could see that my apartment was in flames and I panicked. I ran. I ran as fast as my little 8 year old legs could take me. I don’t know who grabbed me or where I was. I remember that someone told me they thought I was in the apartment and they tried knocking the door down to get me. In flashes I remember my mom came running up, it was like the movies, screaming, crying, hitting her knees in fear, anger, terror, all of the above. I was in a police car being taken away. I was so terrified, I had bitten a hole in my bottom lip.