Two young children are safe in the custody of relatives after police in Suffolk, Va., rescued them from apparent squalor.
Police investigating a gang initiation beating from earlier this month did not find the female suspect they had been searching for as they combed the neighborhood Tuesday afternoon. But when officers heard children crying, they decided to take a closer look at a decrepit trailer behind the suspect's house. What they found was heartbreaking.
Police say a 2-year-old girl and a 6-month-old boy had been padlocked inside the flea-infested camper with a soiled mattress covered in feces and urine, according to NBC affiliate WAVY. Both children were covered in bug bites, and their diapers had not been changed in some time, police told the station.
"The infant boy was having difficulty breathing. Conditions in the trailer were deplorable," Suffolk spokeswoman Diana Klink said in a press release obtained by the Suffolk News-Herald.
According to CBS affiliate WTVR, the camper had "no running water, no air conditioning and all of its windows were closed."
Police arrested the children's mother, Jaronda Wilson, 23, and their babysitter, Laron Neal, 22, and charged both with abuse and neglect of children, reckless disregard and cruelty, and injuries to children.
Wilson's boyfriend, Cortney Johnson, denied the door to the dirty trailer had been locked and said the he and the children's mother had stepped away for about 10 minutes to go to a nearby store.
"She is a great mother. She is on top of everything and anything that happens to them kids," Johnson told WAVY. "She is on top of pampers being changed, them being fed, the whole nine yards. She's a great mother to her kids."
According to the News-Herald, the trailer was subsequently boarded up and condemned due to the unlivable conditions. Animal control also took custody of one of two pit bulls at the home.
The children are in the custody of their grandfather, who lives in Newport News. Child protective services will be investigating the case.
Homeowner Marvin Askew told WTKR that he had never known the gang beating suspect, Kimberly Shanqua Shelton, to have lived at the address.
"I don't even know who she is," Askew told the station during a video interview.