Published November 12, 2012
VERMILION, Ohio – A mother's frantic plea for help for her disabled 18-month-old son — "He's stiff as a board" — sent an ambulance crew to a reclusive family's home where they found the undersized boy and six other children, most malnourished, according to a 911 tape released Monday.
"He's got medical issues," the mother told a 911 operator Nov. 6 when she and her husband awoke and found the toddler's lifeless body.
"My husband just went inside," she said on the tape released by the Erie County sheriff's department in this lakeside community between Cleveland and Toledo. "He's stiff as a board."
No charges were immediately filed in the case, but the six children, most with physical or mental disabilities or both, were removed from the home and four were sent to the hospital.
Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland said the four were still at the hospital Monday. A spokesman said the hospital could not release information because of patient privacy rules.
A 6-year-old weighed 23 pounds, about half the average 40- to 50-pound weight for the age. The oldest child was 11.
In the call to 911, the mother begged for a quick response from an emergency medical crew.
"Yes, please, please," she said repeating the address located along a country road with a mix of small farms and suburban-style homes with deep front yards.
"We took a nap," she said, "because we had a Halloween party last night with the kids."
The parents apparently were awakened by an 11-year-old who found the toddler unresponsive.
"He's got medical issues, he's disabled, he's a disabled baby and I don't know what happened," the mother. "Oh, please, God help us. We have disabled children."
While begging for fast help from 911, the mother asked, apparently to family members, "When's the last time somebody went in there to check?"
The autopsy attributed the death to malnourishment and dehydration.
A report by sheriff's deputies at the scene said one room had four cribs and extensive medical equipment.
The parents were away from the house Monday for the toddler's funeral, a sheriff's deputy at the scene said.
Neighbors said they had seen little of the family and weren't familiar with their situation.
Messages seeking an update on the investigation were left for the sheriff and prosecutor Monday, a federal holiday for Veterans Day. The county child services agency was closed.
Front windows of the family's home were tightly draped off in black curtains, with paint cans and furniture on the side yard and a pumpkin sitting on the front step. Firewood was stacked on the side.
Erie County was the scene of the emotionally charged trial of a husband and wife convicted of forcing some of their 11 adopted, special-needs children to sleep in cages. Both served two years in prison and were released last year.
The couple lost custody of the children in 2006. They said they used wire and wood enclosures at their home in Norwalk to protect children they said acted up and were destructive.
Audio of 911 call: http://bit.ly/X0nTJc