The stepmother of severely malnourished 5-year-old boy — allegedly found clad in a diaper in a closet under the stairs in her house — is claiming she had nothing to do with the child's condition.
“I was shocked,” Tami Bleimeyer told KHOU-TV in Houston on Tuesday in regard to the boy's state, which included bumps and bruises and a body weight of 30 pounds, police said.
“I have never seen him look like that and I have never seen him with his shirt off recently.”
The 33-year-old pregnant mother of six — her kids are 16, 13, 7, another 5-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl — is charged with felony child endangerment, as is her estranged husband and the boy’s biological father, Bradley Bleimeyer, 23.
“I think the story has gotten very twisted," Bleimeyer told KHOU as part of an interview she said she granted in order to set the record straight. "There have been things added to it. Things changed. There’s a lot of lies out there."
They couple was arrested last Friday at a motel in Humble, Texas, which is about 20 miles north of Houston; police believe the couple fled there with the child.
Meanwhile the boy reportedly has been telling heartbreaking stories of his last year to Jacqueline Hall, his biological grandmother, from his hospital bed:
"He had a little mattress, he was kept locked up, he was given drugs to make him sleep when people would come to their home so he wouldn’t make any noise. He was locked up under that stairwell. In a separate room. His daddy hitting him. He can't cry when the other children took his food. He was fed a piece of bread and a cup of water or milk a day. When he gets to eat food, he looks around at people because he thinks they're going to take his food."
If those aren't a sufficient number of damning allegations and shocking discoveries, the backstory rivals it.
Bleimeyer claimed she and her husband have been separated since last summer; he and the 5-year-old live in Alabama, she said, and were visiting her house in Spring, Texas last Thursday when her 16-year-old son got into a fistfight with Bradley Bleimeyer.
The reason for the fight, the teen reportedly told police, is that he found the 5-year-old in his diaper in a closet under the stairs.
Tammie Bleimeyer said her son is close in age to her estranged husband and "doesn’t respect him as a father,” she told KHOU, adding that her son's allegations of the boy under the stairs isn't true.
“It’s a small square space that slants down at the stairs so it get smaller,” she told KHOU, adding that the only way a child could fit there is if it was empty "but it’s not now.”
She noted that the boy had a room at her house and slept in a bunk bed.
When police arrived at the house to answer the call about the fistfight — "It's not the first time CPS or police have been out," neighbor Skip Warren told KHOU — the teen and Bleimeyer were fighting in the front yard, according to the Houston Chronicle.
That's when the teen told police about finding the boy in the closet — but the stepmother apparently had already taken off with the child.
On Friday deputies used cell phone data to pinpoint Bleimeyer at the motel in Humble and spotted Bradley Bleimeyer leaving one of the rooms.
When they went inside, deputies saw Tami Bleimeyer and the very emaciated boy, who was soon taken by emergency services to a hospital. He was in stable condition on Monday, is expected to remain hospitalized for weeks, and is in the custody of Children’s Protective Services.
Assistant Chief Mark Herman said he's never encountered anything like this case during the course of his 28-year career
“He was severely under nourished, bone sticking out, bumps, bruises," Herman told KHOU. "His skin was coming off on his back. It's a horrific, horrific situation."
The Bleimeyers were charged with felony child endangerment and booked into the Harris County Jail, where the father remains with no bond. The stepmother's bond was set at $2,000.
Nevertheless, Bleimeyer said she didn't take the boy to the motel and she wasn't staying there — but Bradley Bleimeyer was.
“(Bradley Bleimeyer) called me and asked me to come by so we brought some pizza,” she said. “He was actually eating pizza when the police arrived.”
Bleimeyer filed for divorce from her husband after about two years of marriage on Tuesday.
But as to why the 5-year-old looks so emaciated and malnourished?
“I don’t know what caused him to look like that. I don’t know if it’s a health issue or something else like that,” she said. “I don’t want to be like everyone else and assume the worse.”
An attorney for Bleimeyer said she still has custody of her other children but has voluntarily placed them with relatives. A custody hearing regarding the 5-year-old is set for April 21.
CPS officials saw the boy on Feb. 20 and "he was not in this state of malnourishment," agency spokeswoman Estella Olguin told the Chronicle, citing photos taken at that time.
But neighbors saw (and heard) plenty. Yelling. Loud music. Dogs connected to the residence on the loose. Unkempt front yard littered with trash, including several empty pouches of chewing tobacco; the back yard so overgrown that blocked access to play equipment, the Chronicle reported.
Bradley Bleimeyer's arrest was his third in three months — misdemeanor theft of a battery in January, and then felony burglary of a habitation for allegedly kicking down the door of a house two blocks down.
Meanwhile the 5-year-old's biological mother told KHOU that Bradley Bleimeyer hadn't allowed her to see her son — and now she's trying to get custody of him and has been visiting him in the hospital.
"It was the most amazing thing. It was like giving birth again, it was amazing, he knew who I was," Windy Hall told KHOU. "I tried not to cry, I have to be strong for him."
"This has been a long and hard struggle for me and my family. I know it's nothing compared to what my little boy has been through. He's been through a lot and I want him to know that mommy is never going to leave him. Nothing can explain the torture and pain. I had nightmares. For so long, I wake up crying."
The boy's relatives are also praising the 16-year-old who called police for stepping up so strongly in the face of an altercation with Bleimeyer. For now, Hall plans to stick close by.
"He wants me to sleep in the bed with him every night," Hall told KHOU. "Every time I walk out of the room, he looks and looks, I say, ‘Don't worry baby, I’m coming back.'"