STOCKDALE, Texas – Three young children in Wilson County were starved and neglected in a case so disturbing KSAT has had to leave many details out of stories.
The story was first reported Friday and no one has been arrested and charged.
But on Tuesday night, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said the investigation is ongoing and charges could come as early as Wednesday morning.
Tackitt confirmed the children’s grandmother and legal guardian, Samantha Foster, was arrested, but on a traffic violation. Foster has not been charged in connection with the abuse case.
Records show Child Protective Services placed the 1-, 2- and 4-year-old children in their grandmother’s custody in April 2019. They were all said to be living in a home in the 7400 block of State Highway 123 in Stockdale.
The children were found in the house last week severely malnourished and covered in feces, and taken to the Children’s Hospital ICU in critical condition.
The home was reportedly filled with trash, feces, urine and leftover food, according to CPS investigators.
According to the affidavit for removal, the children endured physical abuse and were forced "to eat their bowel movements if they pooped in their diapers" by a man who lived in the home at one time. A Wilson County sheriff's investigator said Friday it appears the man was no longer living there when they began investigating earlier this week.
Wilson County Sheriff’s investigators said an older child in the home who had witnessed the abuse called 911.
“It was heartbreaking and it was definitely one of the worst cases we’ve heard about,” said Sondra Ajasin, CEO of TruLight127 Ministries.
Ajasin is a former child abuse investigator and now runs TruLight127 Ministries, which operates a foster care village and offers certification and support to foster parents.
She is stunned that an arrest in the case has not been made by now.
“When I heard that, I was devastated. I don’t see how anyone can starve kids and not reap the consequences of it, and I say that as a professional who has done investigations,” Ajasin said.
She said the case already has a plethora of evidence.
"The kids have been talked to, doctors have been talked to, so I would think there's enough at this point to arrest somebody. Its obvious it's somebody that lived in the home because it's a starvation case. Physical abuse and things could be harder to prove, but not a starvation case," Ajasin said.
Tackitt said his investigators are still talking with doctors at the hospital, but expects charges to come soon, possibly as early as Wednesday morning.
Volunteers from TruLight127 and other advocacy agencies have been sitting with the children 24/7 as they battle severe malnourishment in the hospital.
KSAT reported Monday, the 4-year-old was released from the hospital.
Ajasin said there is good news about the younger two as well.
“I’ve heard through the fostering network out there that these kids are starting to come out of the hospital, that they are going to go home to foster homes, and I am so excited to know they are improving to that point,” she said.
The foster families caring for the children are getting much-needed support from the community, as they navigate a difficult recovery from starvation.
“There have been studies that have come out that show at two months of age, if a baby’s cry for food is unanswered, they learn they are voiceless and they just stop crying,” Ajasin said. “You have to re-teach them how to use their voice to eat. They also have to learn the basic things of chewing, swallowing, what’s too hot for their mouth, what’s too cold for their mouth.”
She said the families providing the help are also offering the unconditional love and care these children deserved from the beginning.
Ajasin said during the stay-at-home orders, child abuse calls dropped, which has been a concerning trend for advocates who know children have been stuck inside unsafe homes.
Now, as the coronavirus pandemic orders relax, calls are starting to come back in and foster parents are needed more than ever.
“We are starting to see an uptick in calls for us to be ready to take these kids in, and it’s kind of scary how long they’ve been in isolation. But it’s time now for foster families to be ready, to say yes. Last night alone we had eight calls,” Ajasin said.