A woman and her partner were arrested and charged on Tuesday for neglecting and abandoning three children who had been living with the skeletal remains of one of their siblings for more than a year inside their apartment in Harris County, Texas.
The 35-year-old woman, identified as Gloria Y Williams, has been charged with injury to a child by omission, failure to provide medical care and failure to provide adequate supervision. Her partner, Brian W Coulter, 31, was charged with murder in connection with the child’s death.
Ms Williams’ 15-year-old son, who had been taking care of his two younger brothers aged 7 and 10, called 911 for help on Sunday. He said his brother had been dead in the next room and told officers that his mother had not been back in months, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Their mother and her partner reportedly lived just 15 minutes away from the children, but rarely visited them.
The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office announced on Tuesday that the child suffered homicidal violence with multiple blunt force injuries and the manner of death was ruled a homicide. He is believed to have been nine years old and died around a year ago.
Ms Williams and Mr Coulter were taken in for questioning at the sheriff’s office on Monday but let off soon after. They were arrested on Tuesday afternoon.
Neighbours of the minors at West Oaks Apartments in Harris County said they had been feeding the 15-year-old not knowing that he was living with two younger brothers.
One such neighbour, Erica Chapman, told KTRK-TV that the first time she saw him, the teen was sleeping on one of the slides. Ms Chapman said she started giving him food six months ago, and the teen would only accept packaged snacks, fruit and pizza.
Another neighbour, Trevor Thompson, described the teenager as paranoid of getting poisoned, which is why he accepted only a certain kind of food.
“One day, he came here and knocked on the door and asked if he could use the charger, and we built a bond from there. I started offering him food because I knew he needed more than just a charger,” Mr Thompson said.
The three boys were taken to a nearby hospital where the doctors said they were malnourished. The youngest child had facial fractures.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is seeking custody of the three boys. Child welfare services in Texas have also launched an investigation into the crime.
Watch: How residents in this Harris County neighborhood became numb to crime