Three children — ages 15, 10, and 7 — were found abandoned inside a Houston, Texas, apartment Sunday alongside the skeletal remains of their 9-year-old brother.
What are the details?
The children, all males, were discovered after the eldest brother called police to alert them that his 9-year-old sibling had been dead for a year and was located in the room next to his, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Police said that a neighbor had been caring for the children in recent weeks by periodically bringing food and drinks to them and charging their cell phone. All three of the surviving children were reportedly malnourished and showed signs of physical injury. They were taken to a local hospital for assessment and treatment.
Houston Police Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said it appeared that the children had been left abandoned inside the apartment for an "extended" period of time.
"And I emphasize extended," he added. "They were in there while the body was deteriorating" and "were fending for each other. ... The 15-year-old was taking care of the others."
According to NBC News, the eldest child reported that his parents had not been by for "several months."
3 children, including skeletal remains of possible 9-year-old, found inside abandoned apartment ... www.youtube.com
Both the mother of the children and her boyfriend were reportedly located and brought in for questioning before being released, Gonzalez confirmed in a tweet Monday morning. He added that there were no developments in the case as of yet.
"In our experience, it's always best to not speculate and just let the investigation take its course, but a very disturbing set of circumstances, so we definitely want some answers for these children," the sheriff said, according to CBS News.
Deputy Thomas Gilliland, a spokesperson with the Harris County Sheriff's Office, told reporters that forensic investigators found the scene at the apartment to be disturbing. Thomas added that authorities are now trying to figure out why neighbors at the complex didn't notice that anything was amiss.
Neighbors who have been interviewed by authorities and media representatives have expressed shock and horror at the news.
One resident, Kayla Williams, a mother of two, told the Houston Chronicle that she doesn't plan to tell her kids about the tragedy.
"I don't need to put this in their heads," she said, adding, "This is crazy."
Another resident, Dianne Davis, was mortified that a parent could abandon their kids in this way, saying: "These children can't take care of themselves. This is like something you see on TV, in the movies. This is like fiction."
She also wondered how apartment inspectors didn't discover the abandoned boys sooner.
"How come they couldn't detect this?" Davis remarked. "How could that not have been found?"