A St. Francois County man charged with seven class D felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child in November appeared by counsel before Associate Circuit Judge Joseph Goff Jr. on Tuesday for a bond reduction hearing.

Robert A. Hillhouse, 39, and his wife Kristina Hillhouse, 35, both of Leadwood, were arrested by the Leadwood Police Department following a DFS call.

Kathleen Aubuchon, the attorney for the defendant, argued that this was her client’s first offense and that prior to his arrest he had been in compliance with DFS. Aubuchon requested his bond be reduced from $150,000 to $50,000.

Prosecutors stated that due to the extremely poor conditions of the home and the state in which the children had been found, the state was opposed to any reduction in bond.

The motion to reduce bond was denied by the judge.

Kristina Hillhouse is also seeking a bond reduction. Her hearing is scheduled next month. 

Kristina Hillhouse sentenced

Kristina Hillhouse

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 trying to stay warm because 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. 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 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.

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 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.

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Matt McFarland is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616, or at mmcfarland@dailyjournalonline.com.


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