The mother of two young children found tied up in a San Antonio back yard last week faces felony child abuse charges in a case authorities have described as “horrific” and “sickening.”
Cheryl Reed, 30, was arrested Thursday night and charged with two counts of injury to a child with bodily injury.
It’s unclear who exactly restrained Reed’s daughter, 3, with a dog leash and her son, 4, with a chain, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. Since February, the two children had been in the care of Porucha Phillips and her husband, Deandre Dorch, authorities said.
Doctors confirmed to “investigators there were hundreds of injuries and scars that ranged from fresh injuries to old injuries on the two toddlers that could have taken place over months or years,” the sheriff’s office said in a release. The girl suffered from hypothermia and had a broken arm, authorities said. Both children have since been released from the hospital.
Phillips was arrested and charged shortly after the children were discovered in her back yard by deputies. Her court-appointed criminal defense lawyer, Alan Futrell, told the San Antonio Express-News that his client is “just trying to figure out what happened, just like I am and the police.”
He added: “It’s too early to say anything.”
On Thursday, an arrest warrant was issued for the husband, Dorch. He previously told investigators he didn’t report Reed after seeing her “whip both children with a switch from a tree on multiple occasions,” the sheriff’s office said.
“He told investigators it wasn’t his place to report child abuse because he’s not a ‘snitch’ and he’s not ‘God,’ ” the sheriff’s office said in a release.
The charges against Reed are connected to the alleged whippings, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office spokesman James Keith told MySanAntonio.com.
According to the sheriff’s office, investigators believe Dorch may have threatened Reed after she left Texas, and that Dorch and Phillips wanted money from the mother.
Six children of Phillips and Dorch were also found unsupervised inside the San Antonio house. Child Protective Services is caring for all eight children.
The San Antonio Express-News reported details about the abuse “that shocked even veteran detectives.” Citing “sources with knowledge of parallel investigations by the sheriff’s office and Child Protective Services,” the Express-News reported that “the boy, 4, was found fastened to the ground outside the [rental] house on Chipping Drive with a tight dog chain around one ankle. His pants were down around his feet as he attempted to relieve himself, and several piles of human feces were nearby.”
More from the newspaper:
“About 10 feet away, his younger sister was tied with a dog leash attached to a garage door, her wrists bound above her head. Doctors later determined her right arm was fractured in two places. Dehydrated, cold and hungry, the kids had scrapes to their legs, backs, wrists and ankles that investigators believe happened over a two-week period.
“The house, located in the Camelot II subdivision, had only a couch for furniture and reeked with the stench of backed-up toilets. Clothes were strewn across the floor. No parent was home. The pregnant mother of six children who were found unharmed inside arrived during the night and was arrested.”
All three adults involved in the case are from California, and it’s not clear how long the married couple had been living in San Antonio. A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services told the newspaper “there is no CPS history of them in Texas.”
While it appears Texas officials weren’t aware of the family before a neighbor reported hearing a child’s cries, the shocking case comes during a time of increased attention in Texas on child abuse and neglect, particularly of those in the care of CPS. The Austin American-Statesman reviewed nearly 800 child abuse deaths between 2009 and 2014, finding “gaping holes in the system,” including that “abuse investigators were missing red flags before children were killed and were failing to analyze critical data to identify patterns and trends,” the newspaper noted.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last year ordered CPS to reform with the help of $40 million in additional funding. He cited the deaths of 12 foster children in the previous 15 months as part of his call for improving oversight and prevention.
But since then, the numbers of children who have died, been abused or neglected while in custody have risen, the American-Statesman reported.
Another analysis, conducted by the Dallas Morning News, found that during April and March, “on any given day, more than 3,400 children who were on the radar of Child Protective Services hadn’t been seen once by a caseworker.”
“It’s a sign of the depth of the havoc in the state’s child welfare system, where extreme workloads, rapid employee turnover, inept leaders and low pay have left investigators and caseworkers unable to simply check in on thousands of the most vulnerable Texans,” the Morning News noted.