HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – Authorities have confirmed that the death of a child whose skeletal remains were found in a west Harris County apartment with three siblings has been ruled a homicide.
According to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office, the child suffered homicidal violence with multiple blunt force injuries.
The heartbreaking story out of the Houston area has captured headlines across the country. It involves three brothers, ages 15, 10 and 7, left alone in an apartment for months, while the body of their 9-year-old brother was decaying inside another room in the home.
Harris County Sheriff’s deputies were sent around 3:15 p.m. Sunday to conduct a welfare check at the apartment located at 3535 Green Crest after the 15-year-old called and said his younger brother had been dead for a year in the apartment.
When deputies arrived, they found the three boys living in horrid conditions, and sadly, evidence of what the teen described.
“The deceased one, or the skeletal remains, we believe at this point is going to be another juvenile, possibly a sibling that passed away,” a somber Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. “It appears the skeletal remains have been there for an extended period of time.”
Chris Downey, a criminal defense attorney for Downey Law Firm, said the person(s) responsible could face charges ranging from criminally negligent homicide to capital murder. He said the Harris County District Attorney’s Office could also seek child abandonment charges as well.
“You’ve got some children in the apartment who presumably were witnesses to what happened or may have relevant information about what happened and you have children in the apartment who may potentially be the culprit,” Downey said.
Downey also said the other tragedy is that no sensible adult stepped up and acted sooner.
“This was happening in an apartment complex where there were neighbors all around it. The nature of the modern world, perhaps we don’t spend as much time or come into contact with each other as we should but it’s a wake-up call to all of us. Pay attention.”
Gonzalez said the older brother told them his parents have not lived in the apartment for months.
Many questions remain, including who was feeding the children and who was paying the rent at the apartment.
“I haven’t been told they were necessarily locked in, but at that age, it appears they were basically fending for each other,” Gonzalez explained.
Gonzalez said the children appeared to be malnourished and showed signs of physical injury.
Neighbors said there were no obvious signs that anything was wrong.
“We never smelled anything coming out of that apartment. Never seen anyone open the door as well, so it’s kind of a shock,” said Bodiul Alam, who lives a few doors down. “Time to time, we’ve seen a couple with a kid come in and out and most likely, it was like six months ago, and nothing recently at all.”
The brothers were transported to the hospital to be assessed and treated for their injuries. They are now in the custody of Child Protective Services and Gonzalez said everyone is working together to provide the boys the support they need.
CPS released the following statement:
“Child Protective Services is currently investigating alongside law enforcement to ensure the immediate safety of the children. The children are being evaluated at an area hospital and the Department of Family and Protective Services is seeking emergency custody of all three boys.”
The mother’s boyfriend was located with her and was also questioned and released. It is not known if he is the father of any of the children.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services left a “Notice of Removal of Children” at the apartment regarding the three surviving boys. The agency confirms they have a history with the family, but did not have any active investigations before the recent discovery.
When asked why there were no charges filed against the parents, deputies would not comment on specifics, only saying the case was under investigation.