Disturbing details of child neglect raise questions about parents, police, welfare agencies

When first responders rescued a three-year-old boy from a squalid apartment in Kingston, Ont., last Friday, the superintendent of the building said the child was naked and covered in feces. The boy's baby brother was found dead.  (CBC News Graphics - image credit)
When first responders rescued a three-year-old boy from a squalid apartment in Kingston, Ont., last Friday, the superintendent of the building said the child was naked and covered in feces. The boy's baby brother was found dead. (CBC News Graphics - image credit)

Warning: This story contains distressing details about child abuse.

A shocking case of child neglect that left a baby dead and another child abandoned in a Kingston, Ont., apartment has many in the community asking how the siblings' parents, police and child welfare authorities could have allowed their living conditions to fall into such an unimaginably sordid state.

When first responders pulled the surviving three-year-old from the apartment last Friday, the superintendent of the building said the boy was naked, covered in feces and had fear in his eyes.

But he was the lucky one. His seven-month-old brother was already dead, police said.

Conditions inside the unit where the children had been living with their mother were so atrocious it remains sealed off, and neighbours told CBC they've heard it will be condemned.

"It's a mess. You can't even stand the smell. But when you open the door..." recalled the superintendent, who was unable to finish the sentence.

Mother facing multiple charges

The boys' 32-year-old mother was located 45 kilometres away in a neighbouring town. She now faces multiple charges including criminal negligence causing death, failing to provide necessaries of life and two counts of abandoning a child under 10 years old.

CBC has since learned the woman has a history of substance abuse and domestic instability.

Court documents related to the 46-year-old father reveal that he, too, has a troubled past including multiple run-ins with the law, resulting in charges of assault and mischief. He's also accused of violating various court-imposed conditions in Kingston.

The parents, who separated around 2020, previously lived in Brockville, Ont., about 85 kilometres northeast of Kingston. That's where three of the couple's other kids were taken away and placed in other homes due to concerns over their welfare.

A sixth child, the eldest, was fathered by another man and was given up for adoption along with one of his half-siblings.

Patrick Louiseize/CBC
Patrick Louiseize/CBC

Because the case involves multiple children in child protection, the province's Child, Youth And Family Services Act forbids CBC from reporting details that would identify any of the family members, nor specific information that could reveal their whereabouts.

In an interview with CBC, the father said he's still trying to come to terms with the death of his youngest child.

"They were always happy," he said of his two youngest boys. "[They] love playing and laughing and being tickled, being around people — very smart, resilient, always had a smile on their face."

The baby's cause of death has not been revealed, but the father told CBC that both natural causes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have been ruled out.

"They were in [there], left alone in that apartment for at least four or five days," he said.

Police have not confirmed how long the children had been left alone before they were discovered.

A pattern of family dysfunction

Since news of the tragedy emerged, much of the public outrage has focused on the mother. But court records reveal a pattern of family dysfunction that dates back nearly a decade and involves both parents.

Police and child welfare agencies in both Brockville and Kingston were repeatedly called to intervene.

A source with close ties to the family alleges that was part of the reason the couple moved in the first place — to evade the scrutiny of authorities in Brockville, which had already resulted in the removal of the other four children.

Family and Children's Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington said in a statement it is aware of a tragedy, but could not comment because of privacy considerations.

The agency said children's aid societies assess every call they receive based on provincial standards, and work with police to address concerns.

Patrick Louiseize/CBC
Patrick Louiseize/CBC

Father in 'total shock'

The father said he was home when the Children's Aid Society of Kingston called him to inform him of the discovery last week. He said he was in the midst of a custody battle with the children's mother at the time.

"I was nauseous," he told CBC. "I couldn't understand why she would do anything like this. I was just in total shock."

None of the current charges against the mother has been proven in court.

According to the father, "there were no signs" that his ex might be capable of abandoning their kids.

"I was under the impression they were being well taken care of," he said.

But several neighbours who spoke with CBC disagreed with that assessment. Three people recalled hearing loud music blaring regularly from the unit, while two said they'd previously heard children in apparent distress.

"We've been hearing a lot of screaming," recalled one neighbour. "Like [the three-year-old] constantly screaming. Children's aid — it's been called numerous times on [the mother] and they don't do nothing."

Another woman who was visiting a friend in the same building when police officers flooded in last Friday said she'd previously heard from the superintendent of the complex about that family.

"He was mentioning there's a girl that lives here that leaves her children alone on a regular basis, and I said, 'Tell me where and who because I'll turn her in right now.' And he said, 'Oh, not to worry ... the people have been here already. I've done it myself.'"

She recalled feeling incredulous at the claim that police and welfare workers had been called to the unit multiple times before.

"I said, 'That can't be true because they would be here removing the children,'" the woman said of her conversation with the superintendent.

Patrick Louiseize/CBC
Patrick Louiseize/CBC

Tumultuous relationship, multiple assault charges 

Records obtained by CBC show that since 2016, the father has been charged at least three times in two provincial court jurisdictions for allegedly assaulting his ex.

According to the files, the father was acquitted of a 2017 assault charge against the mother, and had a 2020 assault charge withdrawn after entering into a peace bond in 2021.

The third time, in 2023, he was found guilty and given 18 months probation, credited with time already served in jail and given one more day behind bars.

He also repeatedly broke court orders restricting him from contacting the woman, the records show.

The close family source, who has known the couple for years, said the two had a violent, tumultuous relationship.

"There were several instances … of domestic violence to the point where she was put in the hospital," the source recalled.

When asked about his most recent assault charge in Kingston, the father outright denied it.

"She has a history of calling the police just to get me out of the house so that she doesn't have to resolve any issues," he said.

"And this time, she really did a number and I had to fight hard to just see my children and I never gave up, and I have no intentions of giving up until my son is home safe with me."

Substance abuse, petty crimes

Court records from the mother's time in Brockville reveal a string of petty crimes that, according to those who knew her, were related to the woman's problem with substance abuse.

The woman pleaded guilt to many of the charges, which ranged from theft under $5,000 to using stolen credit/debit cards. Between her various probation periods, she also failed to abide by court orders and missed several court dates.

The close family source said the woman had "heavy substance abuse issues."

"I don't know if you've seen the pictures of her, but she doesn't have any teeth," the source told CBC.

The children's father said his ex was using crystal meth, the solid form of methamphetamine.

"I think drugs play a very big part in her state of mind," he said.

None of the court records CBC viewed included references to substance abuse.

Surviving boy expected to recover

Kingston police did not answer all of CBC's latest questions about their role in dealing with the troubled family prior to last week's discovery of the two children, only that they "appreciate the input and assistance from other community agencies that were previously involved with this family."

Police said the surviving boy was given medical attention and is expected to recover.

The father confirms his three-year-old son remains in hospital.

"Physically, he has recovered very well, although it did take him 24 hours to urinate," the father said, referring to the child's state of dehydration.

"When I was with him in the hospital, he was still looking for his baby brother," the father said.