RHOME, Texas - Law enforcement officials rescued four young, malnourished children from a home in Wise County Tuesday morning. Two of the kids had been locked in a dog kennel.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office said deputies were called to the home on Country Road 4655 in Rhome because of a call about a domestic disturbance.
The parents arrested and facing child abuse charges are 24-year-old Paige Harkings and 24-year-old Andrew Joseph Fabila.
Fabila has multiple cuts on his face. Harkings is charged with aggravated assault for those injuries.
While the deputies were talking to the couple about the assault, they discovered several children – ages 5, 4, 3 and 1. The sheriff's office said the oldest two were locked in a kennel and the younger ones were covered in filth and appeared malnourished.
"The two oldest children were locked inside a dog kennel. It was just a wire dog kennel that was about 3 by 3 by 3,” said Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin. “There was one girl: the 4-year-old. The rest were all boys. The youngest ones appeared to be malnourished and were unclothed. There was just one kennel. Both children were in one kennel. It was inside a bedroom. There were dirty clothes, mattresses, air mattresses, blankets, dirt, food, feces, urine and cats. It was absolutely filthy inside. Disappointing. An unnerving sight to see.”
Deputies did find food in the house, but it was locked away from the kids’ reach.
“There was ample food inside the house. But the food was locked up so the children could not get to the food,” Akin said. “The children were hungry. They were thirsty. Our deputy and lieutenant fed and gave water to those children.”
The children were taken to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth for evaluation and have since been released into foster care.
Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said the agency has had contact with the family before, but at a different location.
Neighbors are just hopeful the kids will finally get the care they need.
“I hope that they receive love and everything a child should receive: nutrition and someone who cares for them,” said neighbor Amber Jester. “And, obviously, it’s not in the home that they were in.”
Psychologist Susan Fletcher said that these children are likely behind developmentally and probably have a lot of deficiencies. She weighed in on the case in Wise County, although she is not associated.
“The concern is whether or not they’re going to be capable of attaching to people and relationships in a healthy manner,” she said. “The expectation is a 5-year-old already has language, so they’re going to store memories. And that’s the concern is that some of this could stay with them for the rest of their lives. A younger child may have body memories. They may not be able to put language to what happened, but they’re going to have things that their body is going to respond.”
Fletcher said abusers are typically secluded, not sophisticated and do it for control. She said abusers often don’t have remorse for hurting children.
“The fact that they’re safe is huge because all of that can stop now,” she said. “People can take care of them.”
Fletcher said the good news is that children can overcome this, but it will require a lot of therapy and intervention.
The sheriff said there was some evidence of drug abuse inside the home. However, there's a lot more for investigators to gather, including from conversations with the children, relatives and Fabila and Harkings, who remain behind bars.