DECATUR, Texas – A North Texas judge says four young siblings will remain in foster care after two were discovered locked in a dog cage and the others were found smeared with excrement in a barn.
The judge ruled Wednesday that no suitable relatives could be found to care for the children, who range in age from 1 to 5 years old.
Investigators say the children were hungry and thirsty when found Feb. 12 on a property near Rhome, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Fort Worth.
Investigators found the children, “two of which were locked in a dog crate, one was laying on a blanket, one was laying on a toddler bed,” said Wise County Chief Deputy Craig Johnson. “All of them were filthy, covered in fecal material and appeared to be a in a state of neglect.”
The chief deputy said deputies found a refrigerator in the makeshift residence with three straps on it, positioned so the children couldn’t access it.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin says it was the worst case of child abuse he’d seen in his 44-year career.
The children’s mother, 24-year-old Paige Harkings, is jailed on child endangerment charges. Jail records don’t indicate whether she has an attorney.
A man arrested in the case has been released on bond.