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The man accused of murdering his girlfriend’s eight-year-old son in a Texas house of horrors is a “textbook case of a person who abuses children”, according to law enforcement.
Harris County officials said in a press conference on Wednesday that Brian Coulter had abused his girlfriend Gloria William’s children “consistently” for several years, before allegedly beating and kicking Kendrick Lee to death in November 2020.
The abuse continued even after Kendrick’s murder, when the couple abandoned her three surviving children in the Harris County apartment alongside their brother’s rotting body, officials said.
When the three children - aged 15, nine and seven - were finally rescued on Sunday, the nine-year-old was found to have an untreated jaw injury allegedly caused by Mr Coulter just weeks ago.
The young child must now undergo surgery for the injury, officials said.
Brian Coulter was arrested and charged with the murder of Kendrick on Tuesday, two days after authorities found his skeletal remains inside a unit at CityParc II at West Oaks Apartments in Harris County, Texas, alongside his three starving brothers.
Watch: Harris County sheriff wants to learn why kids were abandoned with dead sibling
The 31-year-old allegedly murdered Kendrick between 20 and 29 November 2020 by punching and kicking him to death.
For the next 11 months, the boy’s body was shoved in a closet to decompose while his three brothers were left to fend for themselves in the apartment, according to the criminal complaint.
Mr Coulter’s bond was set at $1m on Wednesday morning and he is currently being held at a mental health facility.
Ms Williams was also arrested on Tuesday and charged with the felony charges of injury to a child by omission and tampering with a human corpse.
The 35-year-old mother of the four children is accused of concealing her son’s death, starving one of her other surviving sons and failing to protect another from injury.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office said the charges could be upgraded or further charges added in the case.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in the press conference that there was “no evidence” that Ms Williams was also a victim of abuse by her boyfriend.
He said the couple had been in a relationship for a few years and that the “beatings had were consistent over the years” for the children.
Mr Coulter is not the biological father of any of the four children.
Officials said they have learned that the children are to two different fathers, one of whom is believed to be dead while the other is not involved in his children’s lives.
Ms Williams is believed to also have two other children not living at the apartment or with the couple.
Sergeant Dennis Wolford described the situation inside the house of horrors as “classic child abuse”, calling Mr Coulter a “very manipulative person”.
While Ms Williams is not accused of being violent toward her children, Sgt Wolford said the mother and her boyfriend are “both abusers”.
“He is an abuser physically and she is an abuser by omission,” he said.
Sgt Wolford said Ms Williams and Mr Coulter moved out of the apartment, abandoning the children around five to six months after Kendrick’s murder.
They were living in an apartment around 25 minutes away to “distance themselves from the dead child” while they “knew the entire time his dead body was in the apartment”, he said.
During this time, the two younger boys were not allowed to leave the apartment, he said.
“There was some evidence they were locked in,” he said.
Watch: Boy found in Houston home died of 'multiple blunt-force injuries,' Harris County Sheriff says
The abuse continued during this time, he said.
“The beatings were consistent and mainly involving the younger children,” he said.
In the case of the nine-year-old’s jaw injury, the sergeant said they believed the child may have been taken somewhere else, abused and then taken back to the apartment.
Sheriff Gonzalez said the living conditions that the children were subjected to were “unspeakable”, describing the soiled carpets, roaches and flies, no furniture and not even bedding for the kids to sleep on.
The sheriff said finding the children in such a horrific situation was “for law enforcement veterans, the most disturbing incident they worked in their entire law enforcement careers.”
“It seemed too horrific to be real,” he said.
The 15-year-old boy had called the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday afternoon to report that his younger brother had been dead for a year and that his parents had not been living with him and his two surviving siblings at the apartment for several months.
The sheriff said deputies arriving on the scene found the “dry skeletal remains” of Kendrick and the three children who were all “very thin”, hungry and suffering from injuries.
“The mother, we believe, was providing some food by delivery service or having food dropped off on a fairly routine basis,” said Sheriff Gonzalez, adding that it was junk food.
At least two of the children are on the autism spectrum and none had been in school at all for more than a year, the officials said.
A spokesperson for Alief Independent School District told The Independent on Tuesday that the children had not been enrolled since May 2020 and that truancy complaints had been filed against Williams for the children in both 2019 and 2020.
“The children [appeared] younger than their chronological age. They were very sweet children,” Sgt Wolford said.
He added that the 15-year-old had been too afraid to alert the authorities to what was going on as officers praised the teen’s bravery for coming forward this weekend.
“In the midst of the darkness of this horrific situation I’m so glad that the 15-year-old reached out for help,” said Sheriff Gonzalez.
He said he hoped that the surviving children can now get the “love, support and protection that they so desperately need and deserve”.
“We hope that their future is better than their past,” he said.
“May this little angel rest in peace - didn’t have a chance,” he said of their brother Kendrick.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective services has taken the surviving children into emergency custody.