An adoptive mother and a man who are each suspected of physically abusing seven teenagers with special needs and keeping them in a locked closet amid squalid conditions in a home near Houston have been arrested, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
Sheriff’s detectives went out recently to the home, located in the Richmond area, to follow up on an investigation regarding abuse at the residence, according to a post on the office’s Facebook page.
They were advised that the seven juveniles — who were between the ages of 13 and 16 and had various disabilities — had been reported to have been locked in a room, struck with a wooden paddle and were malnourished, the post stated.
The teens did not attend school and were allegedly kept together in one room amid filthy conditions.
“The larger room smelled of urine and feces and the children wore shabby clothes. One of the children suffers from Down Syndrome and was wearing a dirty diaper when he was removed from the home,” the post stated.
When their adoptive mother, identified as 54-year-old Paula Sinclair, had to leave, they would be locked in a closet about 5-feet by 8-feet in size, according to authorities.
At times, they were left alone “so long that the children would urinate on themselves,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
Sinclair had adopted the children along with her husband, who did not live in the home and was not charged, authorities said.
The woman, who was known to the children as “mom,” was arrested, as was another man who lived in the home, 78-year-old Allen Richardson, known as “coach.” They face felony charges of aggravated kidnapping and injury to a child/bodily injury, according to the post.
The children have been placed in state protective custody.
“I cannot think of a more deplorable situation than what we have learned in this case,” Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy E. Nehls said in the post. “These people are taking advantage of a lousy situation at the expense of children who cannot fend for themselves. It is absolutely heart-breaking.”
Sinclair had received payments from the state of Texas of up to $540 a month per child, depending on their needs, Houston-area television station KTRK reported.
It was unclear just how much she was paid all together for the children, whom she adopted back in 2003 and 2004, according to the station.