Two people in Texas have been charged with child abuse and kidnapping after seven special-needs children were found starving, suffering from injuries and living in a locked, urine-soaked bedroom.
Paula Sinclair, 54, and Allen Richardson, 78, of Richmond, were taken into custody a day before Thanksgiving after five boys and two girls, ranging in age from 13 to 16, were removed from their home by Child Protective Services caseworkers acting on a tip.
Sinclair was known in the house as ‘Mom,’ while Richardson, who was listed in property records as the owner of the residence, was referred to as ‘Coach.’
According to officials with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, Sinclair and Richardson kept the seven children in a cramped 5-by-8 feet storage room cluttered with boxes and clothes whenever they would leave the house, reported the station KPRC.
Investigators say the children, among them one suffering from Down syndrome, were sometimes left inside the closet for so long they urinated on themselves.
When the adults were home, the adopted children stayed in a small bedroom strewn with garbage, which was locked with a deadbolt, according to officials. One of the youngsters was reportedly observed by CPS officials wearing a soiled diaper.
Conditions inside other areas of the house were described by investigators as equally deplorable, with rooms reeking of urine and feces.
The young victims were described by deputes as malnourished and dressed in ‘shabby’ clothing. According to officials, Paula Sinclair would discipline the children by striking them with a wooden paddle, causing injuries.
All the teens in Sinlciar and Richardson’s care had learning disabilities and none of them ever attended school; neighbors said they did not even know there were children living in Richardson’s two-story home in the 21000 block of Falcon Creek Court.
‘I cannot think of a more deplorable situation than what we have learned in this case,’ Sheriff Troy E. Nehls said in a news release. ‘These people are taking advantage of a lousy situation at the expense of children who cannot fend for themselves. It is absolutely heart-breaking.’
Besides the seven children, there were also three disabled men living in the house as part of an assisted living program operated by Paula Sinclair.
The grownups were kept on the first floor of the house, while the children lived on the second floor, and they were not allowed to speak to one another.
Adult resident David Willard described Sinclair’s group home as a ‘frigging, blanking prison.’
According to Willard, the children were fed rice and beans three times a day and took all their meals in their bedroom.
At one point, the children reportedly had plotted an escape, tossing a pillow out the window to cushion their fall when they jumped from their second-floor room, but they never carried out their plan.
Paula Sinclair had adopted eight children between 2003 and 2004 with her husband, who no longer lives with her and is not facing any charges in connection to the case.
The station KTRK reported that in 2011, the woman’s adopted daughter, who had cerebral palsy, passed away at age seven. Her cause of death has not been released.
Following their rescue from the Richmond home last month, Sinclair’s seven surviving children were taken to a hospital for treatment and were later placed in foster care.
Meanwhile, Sinclair and Richardson were being held without bail at the Fort Bend County Jail on felony charges of aggravated kidnapping and child abuse causing an injury.