Children Living in Filth
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
Investigators say they learned about the abuse because someone noticed bites from roaches and possibly rats on one of the children. And it's not the first time the two adults have been charged with neglect.
The stench is so strong, one can smell it from street--and that's before you can even open the front door.
It takes closed nostrils and a strong stomach to brave the interior of a house in such of this putrid shape it's tough to call a home. Infested with roaches, ants...and who knows what else lies beneath these mounds of dirty clothes and garbage. It took repellant to keep the bugs off for a quick trip inside.
Debra Cotrel lives across the street and says the family kept to themselves, but there was a constant turnover of junk sold in yard sales to help pay the bills.
"It's very disgusting because I do know that small children were there," says Cotrel.
Saturday, the Department of Children and Families found four kids ages two to seventeen living in the filth. Their mother, 35-year-old Heidi Prophet and grandmother, 64-year-old Donna Deal, have been charged with four felony counts of child neglect.
"This to me is just as bad as physical abuse," says Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas. "It is physical abuse if you think about it, if you have to live in this kind of filth."
A kid's playhouse outside is in better shape than the real thing. But with an animal skeleton in the yard, or blackened toys, or dozens of broken- down bikes, outdoors was no refuge.
Prophet and Deal got into similar trouble in August 2002.
"I've only seen something this bad once before," says Chiefland Building and Zoning Director Bill Hammond. "And that was right here. It's the second time at this house."
"You don't ever know what's going on in your back yard until it's pointed out," says Cotrel.
In the case opened in 2002, Prophet and Deal agreed to court supervision and other monitoring terms instead of jail time. Prophet for one year and Deal for six months. They are currently in the Levy County Jail on 30-thousand-dollars bond each.
The oldest child is staying with an aunt, the youngest three are in foster care.
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