2 Malnourished Texas Children Found Living in Dog Crates as Mom, Boyfriend Are Charged

When authorities responded to an alleged domestic violence incident near Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday morning, they found a disturbing scene.

According to a police report first obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a couple had allegedly gotten into a fight. While authorities began investigating it, they heard children crying inside.

A 5-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl were allegedly found locked inside a dog kennel inside the family home, police say. The kennel was approximately 3 feet by 3 feet. They appeared to be malnourished. Two other boys, ages 3 and 1, were also found malnourished, according to police. The younger children were not in kennels, according to WFAA-TV.

Authorities arrested the children’s 24-year-old mother, Paige Harkings, and her boyfriend, Andrew Fabila. Both of them were charged with four counts of criminal negligence, PEOPLE confirms with the Wise County Jail.

According to authorities, Harkings is the biological mother of all four children. Fabila is the father of one of the children.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin tells the Wise County Messenger that the children were dirty and appeared malnourished. “There was food in the house, but it was locked up where the kids couldn’t get it,” he told the newspaper.

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“The four children have been taken to Cook’s [Children’s Medical Center] in Fort Worth to be examined,”  Sheriff Akin told the Star Telegram in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Authorities are reeling from the allegedly deplorable conditions of the home. Sheriff Akin told the Dallas Morning News that it’s the worst case of alleged child abuse he has seen in his 44 years in law enforcement. “I’ve not worked one [case] where children are locked inside a dog kennel,” he told the newspaper. “I find that absolutely disgusting.”

The Star-Telegram reports that the children were released from the hospital on Tuesday night and placed with foster families.

“DFPS investigators will continue working with law enforcement on the case,” Marissa Gonzales with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services told the newspaper.

The couple remains in the Wise County Jail as of Wednesday afternoon, PEOPLE confirms. Fabila’s bond has been set at $60,000; Harkings’ bond is $75,000.

They have not entered pleas. Court records do not reflect an attorney authorized to speak on behalf of either.

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