The death of a child whose skeletal remains were found inside a Houston apartment has been ruled a homicide, officials said Tuesday. Three surviving siblings, who appeared to have been abandoned, were also discovered living in the apartment.
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, which conducts all autopsies in the county, listed the primary cause of death as “homicidal violence with multiple blunt force injuries”.
One of the surviving siblings, a 15-year-old, called the sheriff’s department on Sunday and told authorities his nine-year-old brother had died a year ago and the body was inside the apartment, according to the law enforcement agency.
Deputies found the teen and two other siblings, ages 10 and seven, living alone in the apartment, said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. The 15-year-old told authorities his parents had not lived in the apartment for several months.
Deputy Thomas Gilliland, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, said he could not immediately provide any more information because his agency was still investigating the death.
The mother of the children and her boyfriend were later located, authorities said. Both were questioned and released shortly after. No charges have been filed.
Gonzalez said it appeared that the surviving children were “fending for each other”, with the oldest sibling caring for the younger two.
Their apartment didn’t have any power and a neighbor had helped the children by charging a cellphone and buying them food, Gilliland said.
The younger children appeared to be malnourished and had physical injuries, according to the sheriff’s office. All three siblings were taken to a hospital, assessed and treated.
The children last attended school in May 2020, said Craig Eichhorn, a spokesperson for the Alief school district. They didn’t return for the 2020-2021 school year and school officials attempted an unsuccessful home visit in September 2020, Eichhorn said.
A judge on Monday granted the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services temporary custody of the three children.
Investigators were still trying to determine why no one in the apartment complex had noticed anything unusual, Gilliland said.
Highmark Residential, the property management company running the apartment complex, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.