WISE COUNTY, Texas - A Texas couple has been charged after four young children were found malnourished and filthy, with two of them locked in a dog kennel, deputies said Tuesday.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told the Wise County Messenger that deputies responded around 7:20 a.m. Tuesday to a call about a family disturbance at a home near Rhome, a small city about 25 miles north of Fort Worth. At the home, deputies found a man and woman who had been fighting.
The man had cuts to his face, Akin said.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Wise County Jail officials identified the pair as Paige Harkins and Andrew Fabila, both 24. Harkins is the mother of all four children and Fabila is the father of one of them, the newspaper said.
While deputies sorted out the argument between Harkins and Fabila, they heard children’s voices coming from inside a barn, WFAA in Dallas reported. NBC 5 in Dallas-Forth Worth said deputies described the building as a metal, shop-type of outbuilding on the property.
Inside the building, deputies found the children, ages 5, 4, 3 and 1.
The 5-year-old and 4-year-old were locked in a dog kennel, Akin said. The cage was 3 square feet in size.
“The others appeared malnourished, covered in urine and feces,” Akin told the Messenger. “There was food in the house, but it was locked up where the kids couldn’t get it.”
Deputies also found feces throughout the living area, WFAA reported.
“This is at the top of the list of worst cases,” Wise County Chief Deputy Craig Johnson told NBC 5.
See aerial footage of where the children were found below, courtesy of NBC 5.
Johnson told the news station that a refrigerator in the outbuilding was fitted with straps to lock it so the children could not open it.
The deputies fed the children, who were then taken to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth for medical evaluations, the sheriff said. Fabila was taken to a different hospital for treatment of his facial wounds.
A neighbor told me the barn sits on a property that was unkept and looked abandoned up until a couple months ago when the tall grass surrounding the barn was mowed. But she said they never saw anyone coming or going from the barn. https://t.co/KPHsfovIB2— Chris Sadeghi (@chrissadeghi) February 12, 2019
Both Harkins and Fabila are charged with four counts of endangering a child, the Messenger reported. Harkins was also booked on a family violence charge.
Neighbors told NBC 5 they had no idea children were living in the outbuilding. They said the couple had only been using the space for a couple of weeks.
WFAA reported that Texas Child Protective Services officials confirmed they’d had previous contact with the family but would not give details.
The investigation into the case is ongoing.