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UPDATE | Augusta parents behind bars after raising kids in bug-infested home

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Published: Sep. 22, 2016 at 11:13 AM EDT
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News 12 NBC 26 News at 11 | Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's a house so filthy and bug-infested, it's been condemned. The trouble is people were living inside and two parents are now facing charges.

It's a quiet street, just off Lumpkin Road in Augusta. On the outside, the home at 2426 Young Drive looks just like every other. But a closer inside look tells a much different story.

Mary Anderson-Jones has called this neighborhood home for 28 years. We just showed her pictures of the living conditions inside her neighbor's home.

Her only words: "Oh, wow."

Roaches everywhere, holes in the walls and what appears to be mold in the ceiling just the starting point of problems inside.

"She should have cleaned her house up," Anderson-Jones says. "She could have done better. She was home every day so I don't know if she was used to living like that but she could have done better as far as living conditions were concerned."

Cynthia Westberry faces child deprivation charges for allowing her 14-year-old daughter and disabled son to live in these conditions. Welfare workers received a tip about the conditions, which lead to a check of the home Saturday.

The report shows Westberry was reluctant to allow officials inside. Richmond County Code Enforcement allows three days between checks to allow tenants to improve their conditions before action can be taken.

The police report paints a graphic picture of life inside. The Code Enforcement officer saying she saw live roaches crawling on the teenage girl, who was sleeping.

Officers say there was a heavy smell of urine and feces from more than 6 dogs living inside. Mary and other neighbors say they had no idea.

"No, because we never visit each other like that," Anderson-Jones says. "We didn't go from house to house. I would just see her outside and we would talk- but I didn't know that."

The children's father, Michael Griswell is also facing charges for disorderly conduct. Deputies say he lost control when he got home and found law enforcement Wednesday morning.

"I asked her what was going on and she said somebody had reported that she wasn't keeping her kids," Anderson-Jones says. "She wasn't doing what she was supposed to be doing with her kids. And I told her I was sorry to hear that."

The home is now condemned and empty. But as bad as it is, Jones-Anderson says she is hoping for the best for Cynthia and her children.

"Once she gets out of jail or wherever she may be, I hope she can clean up her house and get her kids back," Anderson-Jones says. "I hate to see anybody lose their children."

Investigators say they found roaches at least every ten inches inside the home and on nearly every surface. The disabled son and teenage daughter are staying with their grandmother for the time being until the Richmond County Department of Family and Children's Services can find a permanent home.

Code Enforcement says anyone can leave a complaint about a home that can be inspected or in case of a similar situation. Some red flags people can remember are exposed wiring, faulty construction, holes in the wall or roof and overgrown grass.

Anyone can leave a complaint at Richmond County Code Enforcement at (706) 312-5049.


Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016

(WRDW/WAGT) -- A mother has been arrested on charges accused of child deprivation after deputies said her two children were found living in an unlivable home infested with cockroaches and much more.

An incident report states a deputy was conducting a welfare check for Cynthia Carol Westberry's disabled son Saturday, Sept. 22. The deputy said he found dog feces in multiple rooms, living and dead cockroaches "at least every 10 inches on nearly every surface", and large holes in the walls.

In the report, the deputy adds the whole home smelled of urine. Several dogs were also found inside and outside the house on Young Drive.

The report claims Westberry would not acknowledge her home was unlivable for her disabled son and 14-year-old daughter.

Westberry claimed to be homeschooling her daughter online, but the deputy said he could not find any computer or internet hook-ups in the house.

According to the incident report, the responding deputy felt like the teenager was less developed than she should be by her age. He said he believes Westberry was depriving the teen of a safe, sanitary home and keeping her from school to help with her disabled brother.

Augusta Code Enforcement, DFACS, and animal control were called to the home. Code Enforcement said they found the teenage daughter sleeping with live roaches crawling on her. After that, the home was condemned.

The 14-year-old and her disabled brother are living with their grandmother until DFACS can conduct a more in-depth evaluation.

The children's father Michael Griswell also faces charges after he showed up at the home "out of control."

Cynthia Westberry was also cited for cruelty to animals and failure to show proof of vaccination of those dogs.