‘Absolute squalor’: 4-year-old girl covered in flea bites rescued from home filled with animals, urine, feces

‘Police officers observed fleas jumping out of the minor’s hair’

An Ohio couple faces criminal charges after authorities found flea bites all over their 4-year-old daughter and nearly 60 animals inside their home, which was “covered” in feces and urine, the Newark Advocate reports.

Howard McNemar, 48, and Toni Lichwa, 38, each face felony criminal charges of endangering children and 10 counts of prohibition against companion animals. Lichwa also has been charged with misdemeanor falsification.

Investigators observed fleas on the child’s scalp and bites all over her legs and skin, court records show.

“Police officers observed fleas jumping out of the minor’s hair,” one document states.

The home also reeked of ammonia and was “covered in feces and urine and not suitable for human habitation,” records show. In some places, the excrement was inches deep.

Toni Lichwa [Photo: Licking County Sheriff’s Office]
“It was just the most deplorable of situations, just incredibly awful,” Licking County Prosecutor Bill Hayes told the Columbus Dispatch. “She’s a pretty little girl … It’s hard to believe anybody would put a kid in that environment.”

Authorities seized upwards of 40 cats, 13 dogs and three ferrets from the house and took them to the Licking County Humane Society. The couple had previously surrendered 18 dogs to the humane society two weeks before the other animals were seized.

One of the cats has since died, according to Licking County Humane Society Executive Director Lori Carlson.

The child also was removed and taken to a relative’s home.

Court records of an emergency custody hearing reveal that the child was not toilet trained, had been sleeping on a makeshift bed on the floor, could not recite the alphabet or identify colors.

Police were called to the trailer to check on the girl’s safety, the Dispatch reports.

Case workers had to wear protective gear just to enter the residence. They had to exit after “less than a minute” and appeared “ready to vomit due to the strong odor,” court records state.

“It was truly the filthiest home we’ve been in,” Carlson said. “These were not just dirty home conditions. These were absolute squalor, filth.”

The couple’s home is in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, about 30 miles west of Columbus.

Both have been in jail since Aug. 28.

[Feature Photo: Licking County Sheriff’s Office]