ST. LOUIS – The parents of an Illinois toddler who drowned in a lake were charged with child endangerment Monday, accused of allowing the boy and his twin brother to routinely wander from home through a basement window and having them live in what one prosecutor called "filth and squalor."
The charges come more than two months after 2-year-old Lukas Pinski was found unresponsive and submerged May 2 in a small lake near the family's Edwardsville home in southwestern Illinois. Authorities say he and his twin had wandered from home.
Lukas died four days later at a St. Louis hospital. His brother escaped with minor cuts.
Thomas Pinski, 26, who's charged along with 25-year-old wife Emilie Pinski, told The Associated Press he was unaware of the charges until a reporter called his home Monday to ask about them. He said they disagree with the allegations and plan to fight them.
"I haven't talked to my lawyer about this," Pinski said. He quickly ended the phone conversation after the reporter asked for the attorney's name.
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said an investigation showed Lukas knowingly was left unsupervised and managed to climb out of the house through a basement window Gibbons said the toddlers repeatedly exploited for freedom. Gibbons said the parents failed to lock the window or remove a bench that allowed the boys to reach it.
"This was an extremely difficult case," Gibbons said. "But when you know that your children are in danger and there is a strong likelihood that something will happen to them, you have to do everything you can to provide a safe environment for them. This family knew the boys were crawling out of the window and wandering away, yet they did nothing, and that's against the law."
The Pinskis are charged with endangering the life or health of a child, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. They also face misdemeanor child-endangerment counts — each carrying up to a year in jail — for what Gibbons said was their allowing the twins and three other children to live in "uninhabitable conditions which included piles of human and animal feces, broken glass debris and trash."
"These children lived in filth and squalor," Gibbons said.
The Pinskis' live-in mothers — Shirley Pinski, 47, and Rebecca Kennedy, 61 — also face misdemeanor endangerment counts. Online court records do not show whether the two women have attorneys yet.
Gibbons said that since Lukas' death, an investigation of suspected juvenile abuse or neglect at the family's home led child welfare officials to take temporary custody of Lukas' brother and three other children from the house: a 5-year-old boy and two girls, ages 3 and 1.