Police say children living in filthy conditions; four charged

Brad Hicks • Jan 10, 2013 at 9:44 PM

ERWIN — Four Unicoi County residents are facing multiple counts of child neglect after officers with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department discovered them and their children living in filthy and unhealthy conditions, according to sheriff’s department officials.

Those charged were Eddie W. Effler, 28, Amber J. Effler, 27, Robby D. Lewis, 30, and Jennifer L. Lewis, 30, all of 106 Justice Lane in Erwin. Eddie Effler and Amber Effler were each charged with one count of child neglect. Robby Lewis and Jennifer Lewis were each charged with four counts of child neglect.

On Tuesday, officers were called to the home located on Justice Lane to conduct a welfare check on the children residing there, according to a release from the sheriff’s department.

“This action was in response to complaint or information from the public that the children’s health or safety was at risk,” the release said.

According to the sheriff’s department, Capt. Ron Arnold and Sgt. Gregg Copp were dispatched to the residence and, upon arrival, found that trash and debris were scattered all over the floor. The also found cats on the kitchen table and counters, along with pots, pans and other dirty dishes, which had been sitting for a long period of time, the release said.

“All rooms in the house had food scraps as well as animal feces on the floor,” the release said. “Feces was also present on piles of clothing throughout the house. ... Electrical wires were exposed in one of the bedroom closets also, posing an electrical shock hazard.”

Five children were living in the residence, according to the sheriff’s department. UCSD Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said the Department of Children Services is involved in the case and an arrangement for the children will be at the agency’s discretion. The children will remain with relatives until the case is resolved, Rogers said.

Three dogs, five kittens and eight adult cats were removed from the home, according to officials. Rogers said these animals were taken to the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

Rogers said that the four adults charged were charged on a criminal summons and were not arrested. All four are scheduled to appear in Unicoi County Sessions Court on Jan. 17. Rogers also said the welfare check was “definitely needed.”

“It was one of the worst living environments I’ve seen since I’ve been in law enforcement,” Rogers said. “It was just a bad living environment for the kids. There’s just no way you could say otherwise. It was a health hazard to just be in there, let alone crawling around eating food out of the floor.”

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