Local News

Warrants: Malnourished Handicapped Boy Lived In Filth

Posted October 3, 2006 6:26 a.m. EDT

— Trash, roaches and rodent droppings filled a Spring Lake house where a woman and five children lived before the woman was charged Monday with trying to starve a handicapped boy in her care.

Stephanie Lee Williams, 35, of 107 Scarborough St., is charged with attempted first-degree murder, felony child abuse and five counts of contributing to a juvenile being neglected. She remains in the Cumberland County Detention Center on a $520,000 bond.

Authorities said Williams withheld food and care from a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who had been left in her care for the past year. The boy's mother, a friend of Williams who lives in Maryland, sent him to Cumberland County a year ago because she felt the schools were better.

The boy suffered a seizure on Sept. 12 and was taken to Cape Fear Valley Hospital, where medical experts determined that he was malnourished. Authorities said he weighed about 32 pounds -- about 22 pounds below the normal weight for a child in his condition.

The emergency room staff washed the boy before treating him "because he was so filthy doctors were afraid of introducing an infection," an arrest warrant said.

Dr. Sharon Cooper, a pediatrician and child abuse expert, said the boy would have starved to death if he hadn't wound up in the hospital, according to court documents.

Cooper also said the boy, who is confined to a bed or wheelchair, had bed sores and scabbed marks that were consistent with rodent bites, the warrant said.

Court documents said rodent droppings were found throughout the filthy house.

"EMS personnel reported finding the home in complete disarray: maggots, trash, food and an unbearable stench inside the home," an arrest warrant said. "Roaches were found crawling on every surface."

A lawn mower also was stored in a front room, and its fuel posed a fire hazard, the warrant said.

In court documents, detectives said it appeared that Williams intentionally withheld food from the boy "in order to eliminate the burden of caring for him."

Williams also had four biological children living in the home, but detectives said in court documents that they all appeared well dressed and well fed.

The Department of Social Services removed the four children from the house Monday and placed them in the custody of relatives.

The 12-year-old boy has been improving in the hospital in recent weeks, but authorities said the severity of his condition still haunts them.

"(The fact that) he's not able to speak and not able to move and brush some creature off that's biting him in bed or tell somebody where he's hurting or can't breathe or that he's hungry, it really hits home," Cumberland County Sheriff's Sgt. Lynette Hodges said.