CHICKASHA, Okla. — A Chickasha woman is facing felony charges after her three children were hospitalized for high levels of carbon monoxide exposure.
Rebekkah Sterling, 35, was arrested by Chickasha police after authorities responded to the Chickasha Travel Plaza and booked on child endangerment charges. Online court records state Sterling faces three counts of child abuse by injury and three counts of child neglect.
A caller reported three children were having seizures on November 7.
According to Lt. Scott Weaver with the Chickasha Police Department, they were suffering from what turned out to be carbon monoxide poisoning.
"They were rigid. Officers were having trouble making them respond. They were very slow to respond. She had all the doors opened on the vehicle like she was trying to air it for some reason," Lt. Weaver said. "That kind of led to fire department to check and sure enough, there was a buildup of carbon monoxide in the vehicle that caused the children to have an episode."
Sterling reportedly told police, she knew about a possible exhaust leak and “took her vehicle to a shop, but nothing was properly fixed yet". Sterling also allegedly told police she did not have any other mode of transportation and continued to allow her children to ride in the vehicle.
An eight-year-old child was found laying down on the folded down seat of the car. The child’s arms “clenched tightly to his chest," according to court documents. Authorities say another child, two years old, was behind the driver’s seat “curled up in a ball, crying."
The report goes on to say all three children were in “filthy" condition with unwashed clothes, dirty fingernails, and various cuts and scrapes.
"They started checking into this and went farther into the vehicle and the vehicle was, of course, full of trash. Officer even made the observation when they opened up the center console that it had roaches coming out of the center console in the vehicle," Weaver told News 4.
All three children were transported to Grady Memorial Hospital and later admitted with “extremely high elevated carbon monoxide levels and neglect.” Police say nurses were initially unable to get urine from two of the children due to a lack of fluids.
The children were cleaned and fed at the hospital. Court documents state the children ate very quickly, as though they had not eaten in a while.
"They [officers] went and arranged with the hospital to get them some food and when they did, the children just devoured it like they hadn’t eaten in an extended period of time. All the food just went down. They ate everything," explained Weaver.
Police say “her behavior did not show extreme concern for her children and was making excuses for why they were so filthy” and appeared “calm and lackadaisical.”
According to court documents, the Chickasha Fire Department responded to a similar incident with the same children in October before they were rushed to the emergency room at Grady Memorial Hospital.
According to Weaver, the call came in as a medical call and did not come through the police department.
"It just tears at your heart when you see them. They’re crying, reaching out to you…just have no idea what’s going on. Just knows something is wrong," said Weaver.
Sterling allegedly told police she already has an open case with the Department of Human Services because her house was not in proper condition for her children, according to the affidavit.
She remains at Grady County jail as of Wednesday.