A Texas couple has been arrested after four malnourished children were allegedly found in deplorable conditions in a barn on the couple's property, including two who were being kept in a small cage.
Paige Harkings and Andrew Fabila, both 24, are facing four counts of endangering a child after the children were discovered by Wise County Sheriff’s deputies early Tuesday morning, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The deputies had been called to the home to investigate a family violence incident, but when they arrived they heard children’s voices coming from a barn and discovered the children.
The two oldest children, a 5-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, were locked in a small cage that was about three feet by three feet, authorities said. Two other boys, ages 3 and 1, were found on the barn floor covered in feces and urine.
Sheriff Lane Akin called the alleged child abuse the worst he’d ever seen in his 44-year career in law enforcement.
“I’ve not worked one where children are locked inside a dog kennel, and I find that absolutely disgusting,” he told the paper.
Harkings is the mother to all four children, while Fabila was described as the father to one of the children.
The couple had allegedly “crudely fashioned” the barn to serve as the children’s living quarters, CBS News reports. The children appeared to be malnourished and were hungry and thirsty when deputies found them around 7:20 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
"There was plenty of food inside the barn, but the refrigerator and the cabinets had been locked so the kids could not get in to get food," Akin said, according to the news organization.
After discovering the alleged abuse, the children were taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center for evaluation before being placed in foster care.
The couple was arrested and taken to the Wise County jail.
Harkings was also charged with aggravated assault stemming from the alleged domestic violence incident that brought authorities to the property in the first place, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In his mugshot, Fabila can be seen with multiple scratches on his face.
The couple’s neighbors were not aware the pair had children.
“You’d think that being right across the street we would know something. You’d like to say you would do something. But you don’t know. I guess you never know what people are doing inside their homes,” neighbor Amber Jester told KTVT.
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