3 children found abandoned in feces-riddled home, parents arrested

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. -- Two 33-year-old parents were arrested Tuesday, four days after their three kids were found abandoned in deplorable conditions inside their Lake Stevens home, police said.

Officers were called to the home in the 9700 block of 11th Place SE on Saturday after getting a report of possible child neglect. Officers arrived to find the house padlocked and a 7-year-old girl just inside. Officers broke into the home and found the girl along with her 3-year-old brother, abandoned and living in deplorable conditions. Upstairs, their 11-month-old brother was locked in a room.

"The 7-year-old was taking care of the 3-year-old and the 11-month-old was locked upstairs in a room where you needed a key to get to it, so they had to take care of themselves," said Cmdr. Dennis Taylor with Lake Stevens Police.

Detectives described the house as being filled with animal feces and garbage with no heat or food present.

"There was only an empty snack-size potato chip bag and an empty Pringles can," Taylor said. "There was no sign of any food; no empty wrappers, no empty cans, certainly no food in the home."

Meanwhile, the home was literally falling apart around them, with no protection from the winter chill.

"The condition of the home looked like it was being torn down, with drywall missing, insulation missing, water coming through the ceiling," Taylor said, adding it was about 40 degrees in the home.

The children were taken to a local hospital to be examined, where it was found the 11-month-old had a temperature of only 94 degrees, was lethargic and unable to move his extremities, Taylor said. The infant was treated for hypothermia and dehydration, "and is doing much better now," Taylor said. The children have since been transferred to Child Protective Services.

"I don't know that I've seen children living in these kinds of conditions before," Taylor said.

Investigators haven't determined yet how long the children had been left alone, but the parents didn't show up at the home and had to be tracked down by officers. They were later arrested at a business in Monroe on Tuesday. It's unclear whether the parents ever went back to the home since Saturday, but Taylor says the parents never attempted to contacted police.

A neighbor who just learned of the arrests said she's heartbroken over the news.

"I would never do that to my children. How can you do that to your children?" the neighbor said. "It makes me sick to my stomach. I'm heartbroken."

Police say the parents have had a long history of CPS complaints as well as health code violations.

Both parents have been booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of Felony Criminal Mistreatment and abandoning a child.

Taylor said they were very lucky they stumbled upon the home. A man who was owed money by the parents was frustrated he couldn't reach them by phone for several days and went to the home, only to discover the girl inside by herself. He then called police.

"If it weren't for the person who was owed money; if it weren't for their insight to call us, we'd be dealing with a much more tragic situation," Taylor said. "It's 40 degrees inside the home because there's no heat; no insulation. It's very possible the one child could have perished from hypothermia."

The building inspector has condemned the house from any further occupancy.
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