Three people have been accused of letting rats bite a 6-week-old girl and chew off her toes at their cluttered Ohio mobile home.
Pike County prosecutor Rob Junk says the baby's toes on one foot were gone when sheriff's deputies went to the home Sunday after receiving an anonymous tip.
The baby is in fair condition at a Columbus hospital.
A married couple and the 18-year-old boyfriend of the baby's mother are charged with felony child endangering. They were in court for an initial hearing Tuesday. They're jailed pending a plea hearing in two weeks.
The prosecutor says they all lived in the mobile home west of Piketon, a village noted for its old uranium enrichment plant.
He says the baby's mother is a juvenile. He won't identify her or say if she'll be charged.
01:30 PM CDT on Thursday, July 23, 2009
WESTWEGO, La. – Blood loss due to an attack by a rat or rats was determined to be the cause of death of the three-month-old girl who died last week in a Westwego home, according to a statement by Jefferson Parish Forensic Pathologist Susan M. Garcia.
Authorities had been trying to determine whether bites occurred while the child was alive or dead.
Hill was found in her crib, covered in blood and her parents placed an emergency 911 call. Bloody prints that appeared to be those of a rat trailed from the crib.
LSU Trauma Surgeon Dr. Alan Marr, who was not connected to the case, said that the small amount of blood present in an infant’s body mean that fatal blood loss could have occurred in a short period of time.
“The soft tissue, which would be skin and muscle, maybe all the way down to the bone, was torn open and probably in multiple places in order for the child to have lost enough of their blood volume to die.”
"We had hoped the results would be different, to be honest with you,” Munch said.
Munch said his investigators haven’t determined if criminal charges will follow, now that the autopsy findings have been released.
The parents of Natalie Hill, Robby Hill and Casey Laine, were in court at a custody hearing Wednesday concerning the status of their other child, a 14-month-old boy who was removed from the home after the baby's death.
The court said it would rule on the case next week after it inspects the home where the parents are living at this time.
Distraught family members defended the parents and lashed out at the home’s landlord, Charles Dufrene, who they say did not use FEMA money he had received to address the home’s structural problems.
“She died devastatingly,” said Ryan Laine, the child’s uncle. “The people that should be responsible for this is the landlord.”
Eyewitness News tried to reach the landlord at his Lafitte home, but Dufrene never came to the door. The landlord, neighbors have said, is also Robby Hill's step-father.
“They were good parents that would never let nothing happen to this child,” said Lisa Lenormand, the child’s grandmother, through tears. “That was his (the landlord’s) house for 17 years and he let the children come into that house knowing the kind of danger they were in. He got FEMA assistance three times to fix that place and he failed them. He never gave them a penny.”
Natalie Hill was found in her crib by her parents covered with rat bites Thursday morning in the 700 block of Central Avenue.
When EMS and police arrived at the house, Munch said, they found Natalie, a large amount of blood and hundred’s of bites on her body – including flesh being removed from her nose and the bottom of her leg.
Lane defended herself publically after the death of her daughter in a Times-Picayune video, saying, “It hurts, it feels like a piece of me is gone and it’ll never be back.
“I just wish people would stop and realize that I’m a good parent. My husband is a good parent. I never meant to put my child in any kind of danger. If I had known it was that bad, I would have never even lived there.”
Munch said the home was cluttered, though not necessarily dirty, but he said the structure had several problems.
“Holes in the wall, holes in the floor,” he said. “It’s an older home. It’s not something you would want to be raising a family in.”
Westwego Mayor John Shaddinger said earlier, city code inspectors sent the couple a letter, instructing them to clean up their yard.
"At the front of the house, there was some trash that needed to be removed," said Shaddinger. "They didn't comment that this house needed to be torn down, they never commented that they saw rats. They never commented it had holes in the side of the building or on the roof."