With heavily armed federal agents surrounding her Saxton home Jan. 28, 2013, Kelley Foster nervously called her boyfriend, Joshua Faircloth, and their close friend Garrett Sherlock, who were both seeking to sell 31 stolen handguns in a poor Baltimore neighborhood.
Investigators had found their identities, Foster explained. The prior night's surveillance footage at Saxton Outdoor Supply showed a man - already identified by police as Sherlock, she said - slamming a car through the front entrance and wandering the store in search of guns.
"Neither of them believed me," Foster, 24, told the Mirror this week. "They just thought I was lying to them because I was worried."
Hours later, the Saxton men were fleeing from Baltimore police in a chase that would end with one nearly killed and the other comatose.
Foster, who refused to cooperate for months but pleaded guilty as an accessory in March, faces up to five years in federal prison when she's sentenced in October. Her sentencing will effectively wrap up the 18-month, two-state case, which likely left at least two illegal guns on the streets and dozens more recovered.
'Things just got to him'
In the predawn hours a day before the Baltimore chase, Foster awoke to her phone ringing. Sherlock, now 27, a close friend with a criminal history who in the past had abused heroin with her boyfriend, was on the line.
"I'm not going to lie: I had an idea it was something bad," she recalled.
Sherlock asked her to take her boyfriend, Faircloth, and deliver him a can of gasoline in a rural Huntingdon County field. By the time Sherlock called, he had already stolen a car and smashed it into the outdoor shop, making off with 31 handguns.
When the couple met Sherlock in the snowy field, Foster said, he tossed a bag into their car. He took the gas and walked to his own car; soon it was in flames, she recalled.
"By this point, Sherlock's friends, Mr. Faircloth and Ms. Foster, were unfortunately ensnared in Sherlock's drug-motivated criminal activities," Faircloth's lawyer later wrote in a court filing.
Before Sherlock launched his gun-smuggling plan, he had been clean of heroin for at least a year, Foster said. Faircloth, her boyfriend since she was a teenager, had been clean for five years.
At some point, she said, difficulty finding work and small-town gossip weighed on Sherlock, however, and rumors spread that he had been kicked out of a rehabilitation program.
"Garrett couldn't get a job. I'll give him credit: He tried and tried," Foster said. "I think things just got to him."
In earlier years, when the young friends used heroin together, they occasionally drove to Baltimore for the drug, Foster said. That may have influenced Sherlock's seemingly half-baked plan to sell or trade the guns to mysterious contacts in the city.
"He probably throughout time made a friend or two there. But he didn't have any kind of contacts or anything like that," she said.
The day of the robbery, Sherlock tried to convince his friends to join him in the trip to Baltimore, where he would sell the guns for easy cash. Baltimore police would later estimate the guns could sell for $300-500 apiece.
Faircloth agreed to accompany him, but Foster didn't. Watching a TV news story on the robbery that day, she realized the seriousness of Sherlock's scheme, she said.
"Reality was setting in," she said.
Chase and crash
The rest of the story can be pieced together largely from police reports, legal filings and Foster's later communications with her boyfriend.
The men loaded a duffel bag full of handguns and drove to Baltimore, where by night they found themselves in the low-income Harlem Park neighborhood, according to addresses police provided. They apparently managed to trade some of the guns for cash or drugs, as authorities later reported two guns missing and a bag of cocaine in the car.
Sherlock injected cocaine into his veins that night before selling some of the guns for crack, Faircloth's laywer later noted.
The men didn't realize that, as Foster recalls, Pennsylvania State Police had already determined Sherlock's identity and alerted federal authorities, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Police in Baltimore were already searching for the Pennsylvania-registered car by the time agents riffled through Foster's home for evidence.
Despite Foster's call and warnings from neighborhood gun buyers that police were on the lookout, the pair stayed still in their car until they heard the sound of a police radio, Foster said.
A four-mile chase ensued, ending only when their car smashed into another parked car, police said.
Both men were unconscious when emergency workers cut them from the twisted wreckage, court filings show. Rushed to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Sherlock would spend weeks in a coma while a seriously injured Faircloth would have to learn to walk again, Foster said.
"He told us a Baltimore firefighter saved his life. ... If it wasn't for them, he
wouldn't be here," she said.
'Keep your mouth shut'
Facing federal gun-smuggling charges, Sherlock pleaded guilty to two charges and was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison. Faircloth, who joined him in the attempted sale but wasn't involved in the initial theft, received a three-year sentence on Aug. 1.
Police found 29 guns in the car, including one loaded under the driver's seat. Two were already gone, likely in the hands of people who wouldn't want their illegal activities to be tied to a legally obtained handgun.
"If we hadn't done this good work, these guns, no doubt in my mind, would have resulted in taking young lives on the streets of Baltimore," Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said at the time.
With her boyfriend facing years in prison and her own involvement - keeping the full story from police for months and refusing to testify against Faircloth, even at his urging - set to land her a possible prison term, Foster remains in limbo until her October sentencing.
Federal guidelines advise three years for her work to aid the criminals after the fact, but her lawyer has requested probation, citing her clean record and willingness to attend counseling for psychological problems.
Until she learns her fate, she is under house arrest, allowed to leave only under special circumstances.
Given a second chance, Foster said, she'd have changed her decisions - but would remain loyal to her loved ones.
"Garrett (Sherlock) is my friend. This might sound crazy, but I acted out of love more than anything," she said. "If anyone else would put themselves in my shoes, you're just going to keep your mouth shut. You're not just going to call the cops on your boyfriend and one of your best friends."