Image from Burke County home where children were found living in squalor. (WRDW-TV/file)
July 31, 2009
WAYNESBORO, Ga.---It was one year ago today that investigators made a shocking discovery in Burke County: eleven children living in squalor with no electricity, no running water, and very little food.
It all started when a neighbor called to report three children were trying to steal a chainsaw. When deputies got there, they found the children, ages ten months to 18 years old, living in filth. That's when the investigation began.
Today, the children's mother, Christine Long, is in jail after pleading guilty to child cruelty charges in court. She will spend two weekends every month in jail for about the next 16 years, adding up to two years total jail time.
The DA's office calls it one of the worst cases of neglect they've ever seen.
It was an uneasy day as witnesses testified about the children. The evidence presented as shocking--so much so that at one point the judge threw down his gavel in disgust.
The evidence showed just how bad conditions were at the family home. It was revealed that the children were not even taught basic skills such as proper bathing. Allegedly some of them had to bathe from the toilet and the kids had never taken a bath or shower.
Foster parents claim they have had to teach the children how to bathe and even had to bleach their feet because they were so dirty.
The children also allegedly went without new clothes for years. Some of the kids made comments about stealing clothes out of storage sheds.
The children's health was also discussed. It was stated that over a ten year period, there were only four doctor appointments for all eleven kids.
Two of the children tested positive for Hepatitis B antigens, and doctors say the parents never brought them back to get full immunizations to fight the disease. In fact, doctors couldn't find imuunization records on any of the 11 children. .None of them received dental care. Two children alone, an 8 year old boy and 5 year old girl have already had to undergo more than 10 thousand dollars in dental surgery in the last year.
One of the foster parents talked about the deplorable conditions: "The smell...it was kind of a mix between animal and death. It was worse than road kill. It was horrible," said foster mother Tanya Torek. "(One of the children) was visibly underweight, sunken eyes. I've never seen hip bones before. Clear view of the hip bones. It's like you could put paper up to him and trace them, it's unbelievable."
In June, the children's father, Jeremy Long, started out pleading not guilty but changed his mind. He entered into an agreement with the DA's office so his children would not have to testify, pleading guilty to ten counts of cruelty to children. A judge sentenced him to three years in prison with another ten years probation.
We're told that if Jeremy Long ever did get his children back, it would be under the watch of state family services.