A married couple in Texas is facing charges after their 18-month-old son was discovered dead inside his overheated, feces-filled room and their two other little children were allegedly kept in similarly “terrible” conditions.
Daniel D. Dennis, 25, and Erin M. Dennis, 23, were indicted earlier this month in Henderson County on two charges each of abandoning or endangering a child, according to court documents reviewed by Law & Crime.
The allegations arise from the couple’s surviving two-year-old and four-year-old children, who were both placed in the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS). According to Tyler ABC station KLTV, authorities earlier claimed that they “fully expect” the parents to face charges in connection with the murder of their 18-month-old son David Dennis.
Prosecutors allege in the indictment, filed March 10 in the 173rd Judicial District Court, that the couple engaged in conduct that put [victim 1] a child younger than 15 years of age in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence.”
They are charged with “locking [Victim 1] in a room with feces-covered walls and doors” and “refusing to deliver the kid freely to an authorised emergency infant care provider.”
Prosecutors argue that the second victim was similarly imprisoned “in a cage in a room filled with faeces, and the defendant[s] did not willingly give the kid to an authorised emergency baby care provider.”
Daniel and Erin have been detained at the Henderson County Jail since their December 15 arrest. According to jail records, a judge placed Erin’s bond at $750,000, while Daniel’s bond was set at $1 million.
As originally reported by Law & Crime, Henderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a 911 call on Dec. 14 regarding an unresponsive infant at a property on Private Road 7801. When UT Health Emergency Medical Services employees arrived on the scene, they informed detectives that an 18-month-old kid had been pronounced dead inside the home. Though EMS stated that the cause of the child’s death was unknown at the time, they observed that the room in which the toddler’s body was discovered was dangerously hot.
According to Tyler ABC station KLTV, “the mother stated that she arose Tuesday morning to play video games.” “She then went to check on the three children and discovered that the 18-month-old had died.”
Investigators reportedly noted in a probable cause affidavit that the room was outfitted with a small white space heater and that the toddler had been “down for a while” when they arrived. According to reports, EMS tested the temperature of the child’s room six minutes after their arrival and found it to be nearly 100 degrees.
The temperature of the deceased infant was reportedly 103 degrees Fahrenheit when taken from the boy’s chest and head. The child’s body temperature was particularly peculiar, given that physicians on the scene indicated that rigour mortis had set in, implying that David was likely dead for at least four to six hours when his temperature registered at the dangerously high level.
Erin reportedly told authorities that when she put David to bed the night before, she noticed nothing unusual save for a little rash and bug bites.
When officers arrived on the scene, they reportedly noted the residence’s “terrible” state, which included “human excrement on the wall and filthy diapers on the floor,” including in the room David shared with his 2-year-old brother.
Additionally, the room had two cribs, one of which had been “turned upside down with the mattress on the floor and the metal supports across the top forming a ‘cage,'” according to the affidavit. Additionally, the crib was apparently surrounded by a fence that wrapped the structure fully.
The bedroom of the couple’s third kid, a 4-year-old girl, was then reportedly viewed by investigators. When a detective commented on the fact that the girl’s room had a lock on the outside of the door, Erin reportedly stated that the lock was necessary since the youngster was a “escape artist.”
The room was reportedly empty on the inside, save for a cot mattress in the corner. Additionally, the detective stated that the walls and interior of the door were reportedly covered with what seemed to be human faeces. According to the statement, “handprints of a little child were visible in the excrement,” and the room reeked of human waste.
According to police, a search of the parents’ room uncovered “many guns unsecured against the wall.”
The two surviving children were reportedly admitted to UT Health Hospital with evidence of trauma and physical abuse. They were both placed in the custody of Child Protective Services, according to reports.
“This is one of the most heinous cases we’ve ever encountered,” Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse reportedly stated following the arrests.