A neighbor brought food to three children living alone for months with the decomposing body of their brother in a suburban Houston apartment and even charged their cell phone, yet no one investigated until the oldest child in the apartment called police on Sunday.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Harris County authorities questioned and released the mother and boyfriend of the 15-year-old boy and his 10- and 7-year-old brothers after the teen reported that a 9-year-old brother was dead and had been for a year.
While it wasn’t clear just how long the children had been abandoned in the apartment, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said it was an “extended” period of time, “and I emphasize ‘extended.'”
And yet, the children’s horrific situation was not unknown. The sheriff’s department told the Daily Beast that an unidentified resident of the apartment complex brought the children food for at least the past two weeks before the 15-year-old called police and had charged their cell phone when the apartment’s power was shut off.
More than one resident of the large complex about 20 miles from downtown Houston said that the smell coming from the apartment was more than just noticeable. One told the KTRK that it was so bad she couldn’t turn on her air conditioner without the foul odors being pulled into her apartment. That resident said she repeatedly reported the problem to management.
Another, long-term resident of the complex said that maintenance workers had been making the rounds of apartments for a week before the discovery checking to see if any repairs were needed.
“I’m concerned nobody smelt nothing,” she said. “Something’s not adding right. Something ain’t right.”
That same neighbor wondered about the resident who helped the children with food. “If an adult was bringing them food to eat, they must have seen that child,” she said.
And another neighbor, Erica Chapman, told KHOU that she had once run across the older boy sleeping on a playground slide.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” she told the station.
Chapman said the boy “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push, hoping that she wouldn’t scare him away.
“If you’re that hungry, I want him to come to me because I at least knew he was eating,” she said.
Chapman added that she was disgusted when she learned the extent of the children’s predicament and that if she’d known, “I would have took all of them.”
Some residents reported seeing the children’s mother periodically, but one — Isaac Ford — said he was unaware she had children.
“It’s just so strange how a whole body could be in a house for a whole year with nobody coming in or out and seeing it,” Ford told The Daily Beast.
The apartment complex management has so far refused comment.
In addition to Harris County’s investigation, the state child welfare agency has opened an investigation.
“To ensure the safety of the children, the Department of Family and Protective Services is seeking emergency custody of the three boys,” the agency said in a statement. “Child Protective Services does have history with the family, but there was no active CPS investigation at the time the children were discovered alone in their apartment.”
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[Featured image: KHOU screenshot]