An area couple is facing multiple felony charges after two of their children were found wandering the streets and their living conditions were discovered.
Kristina Hillhouse, 35, and Robert Hillshouse, 39, both of Leadwood, are each being charged with seven class D felonies of endangering the welfare of a child.
According to a probable cause statement, on Nov. 8 at approximately 7:54 a.m. an officer with the Leadwood Police Department received a call from Central Dispatch regarding two young children wandering around a neighborhood with no shoes and little clothing.
The dispatcher told the officer that the reporting party had the two young children with him. When the officer arrived to the of 1,000 block of East St. he saw the man who reported the 7- and 5-year-old children standing next to him with his coat wrapped around them keeping them warm.
The officer spoke with the man and he said the two young children were wandering around the streets trying to get into cars and trucks at nearby homes and tried to get into a burned out unoccupied house.
The man also told the officer the children said they were searching for a place to stay warm since they didn’t know where they lived. They only knew they lived in a yellow house. The officer put the children in the warm patrol car.
In the report, the officer explained that in his experience and training as a law enforcement officer, a child not knowing where they live and not knowing what the outside of their home looks like is an indicator that the child has been inside the home for a long period of time not being able to see the outside world.
The officer reported that the children were found not even 50 feet from their home and still were not able to recognize the house. He contacted the Leadwood police chief to assist.
There was a yellow house across the street from where the children were found. Both officers walked over and tried to make contact with the homeowner, but no one answered the door.
The report stated the officers noted the front door was open and per city code of open-door policy, they made entry into the home and made a “horrible discovery”.
Upon entering the home they saw a 3-year-old child lying in a recliner, partially covered with feces and dirt. They found the child was sleeping. As they walked through the house, they found there was a total of seven children in the home, living in very inhumane conditions.
The children ranged in age – five months, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 – and all of their clothes were urine soaked along with all the beds, and there was also feces on the children’s feet and clothes. The officer reported that the children’s feet had a thick crust of feces on the sides and bottoms.
The officer also reported that the living room had food and feces all over the floor with a trail tracking to the bathroom. As he made his way into the hallway and to the bedrooms and bathroom, he saw a woman later identified as the mother of the children sleeping in her bed with the infant in the master bedroom.
The officer called to the woman to wake her up and make her aware of the situation. She came out of the bedroom quickly and seemed baffled by what was going on. The officer explained to her what happened and why he and the chief were in her house.
In the report, the officer stated the woman told them it was impossible for the kids to get out of the house because the door was dead bolted. The officer saw that the dead bolt was installed in a high position on the front door and required a key to open from either side.
After seeing the living conditions, a decision was made to call the Division of Family Services (DFS) hotline to get some help for the children. After calling DFS the officers finished walking through the rest of the house to document the conditions.
While waiting for DFS the mother started cleaning up the house and cleaning up the kids. The officer asked her where her husband was and she said “he’s at work.” The officer asked Kristina if she would call him, and she did.
When the man arrived the officer asked him for his identification. The officer contacted Central Dispatch to check both the adults for warrants.
The officer explained to the couple that DFS was on their way and what was going to happen with the children. He further explained the living conditions were very unacceptable and he had to take action for the safety and well-being of the children.
The report goes on the state that waiting for DFS to arrive the officer checked out the bathroom and saw a children’s potty chair on the floor by the sink which was overflowing with human feces. There were dirty diapers, the toilet was covered with human waste from overflowing, and there appeared to be feces all over the floor in the bathroom. He determined the toilet had not been operating properly for some time.
The officer checked out the children’s bedroom, which he found to be soaked with feces and grime with no bed sheets or blankets. There was feces and food scraps all over the floor. The children’s toys and clothes were on the floor.
According to the report, the master bedroom bed had liquid stains, and what the officer believed to be feces as well.
There was also food and feces in the carpet, with bags of dirty diapers lying around on the bedroom floor.
The kitchen was reportedly one of the worst rooms in the house, with flies swarming around dirty dishes and trash bags containing rotten food. A cat litter box was under the table. The cat litter box appeared to have not been cleaned out for months.
DFS workers documented the scene, then removed the children without incident.
Both Kristina and Robert Hillhouse were booked in the St. Francois County Jail on a $150,000 bond each.