MASTIC BEACH, N.Y. – Five family members kept seven children and more than a dozen animals in a Long Island house that reeked of urine and was littered with rotting food and animal feces, authorities said Friday.
Deputy Inspector Mark Griffiths of the Suffolk County police said a foul odor greeted police officers when they arrived at the home in a working-class Long Island community Thursday afternoon, after being contacted by Social Services officials.
Inside, police found clothes strewn about the floor, animal feces on floors, and soda bottles filled with urine in hallways and bedrooms. There was rotting food in the refrigerator and the home had no running water, police said.
There also were empty propane gas bottles strewn about the house and the stove did not appear to be working. The toilet was filled with excrement and the bathtub in the house had murky brown water, police said.
The conditions could "only be described as squalor," Griffiths said.
The children, ages 2 to 13, were placed in the custody of Child Protective Services; they were in foster homes by Friday afternoon, authorities said. Fourteen cats and two dogs also were removed from the home, authorities said.
Richard Hall, 61, his three daughters, Bernadette, 36, April, 27, and Krystal Hall, 21, and a son, Eamon Hall, 23, pleaded not guilty Friday to seven counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Police said the three women were the mothers of the children.
Richard Hall was ordered held on $5,000 bail; bond was set at $2,500 for the others, said Robert Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota. If convicted on all seven counts, they face a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a $49,000 fine.
A First District Court judge in Central Islip also ordered the Halls not to go near the children. Attorneys for April Hall and Eamon Hall didn't comment.
"While Richard Hall is the children's grandfather, he didn't have a supervisory role in raising the children," said Richard Hall's attorney, Michael Castro. "He loves his children."
Friday, overgrown grass, a trash can overflowing with empty cat food cans, and religious statues surrounded the one-story home several blocks from a bay. Flies swarmed the multicolored house. Broken toys and other garbage littered a side deck.
"It's despicable. People should not have to live like this," said Robert DeBona, a property owners' association president who lives a few blocks away. "Children should be treated with kindness."
Griffiths said Social Services had received a complaint from the school where some of the children are students, expressing concerns about the children's hygiene. After the arrests, the town of Brookhaven building inspector condemned the house.