Three abandoned children have been found living in an apartment with the remains of their younger brother.
The eldest of the siblings, a 15-year-old boy, called police in Houston, Texas, on Sunday afternoon (local time) and told officers his nine-year-old brother had been dead for a year and his skeletal remains were in the bedroom next to his, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
When police arrived at the home, they found the teenager and two of his siblings — aged 10 and 7 — living alone in the apartment, the sheriff said.
The remains of the nine-year-old were also discovered.
Police said the two younger children appeared to be malnourished and had physical injuries. All three surviving kids were taken to hospital to be assessed and treated, Sheriff Gonzalez Tweeted.
“It appears that the remains had been there for an extended period of time. And I emphasise extended,” Gonzalez said, adding that the situation was “horrific”.
“It is believed the parents have not lived in the unit for several months.”
He said the kids were “fending for each other,” with the oldest sibling caring for the younger two. It was unclear whether any of the kids were attending school.
The mum of the children and her boyfriend were located by police late on Sunday night and were interviewed and released, Sheriff Gonzalez said.
“CPS [Child Protective Services] is assisting with the children. Our investigation remains ongoing. No charges have been filed,” he Tweeted.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on why the mum and her boyfriend were released with no charges being filed against them.
In a statement, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said it was seeking emergency custody of the 15-year-old and his two siblings “to ensure the safety of the children.”
“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,” the agency said.
Neighbour complained about foul odour for months
Police have revealed to local publications that the siblings had been surviving in part thanks to a neighbour’s kindness.
The neighbour had been bringing them food and helping them charge their mobile phone after their apartment’s power was shut off, The Daily Beast reports.
Another unnamed neighbour told ABC affiliate KTRK she complained for months about a foul smell coming from the children’s home.
The woman said the stench was so bad she had turned off her air conditioner so it wouldn’t spread into her unit.
She said she complained to the apartment complex’s office several times but nothing was ever done.
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