Texas children found in dog cage placed in foster care

This aerial image provided by KDFW-FOX4 News shows part of the property where deputies found two young, malnourished children locked together in a dog cage near Rhome, Texas about 20 miles northwest of Fort Worth. A Texas sheriff says, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, deputies responding to a domestic disturbance at a home discovered two young, malnourished children locked together in a dog cage while two others also were found malnourished. (AP Photo/KDFW-FOX4 News)

DALLAS (AP) — Four malnourished siblings, all aged 5 or younger, have been placed in foster care after authorities found them hungry and thirsty in a North Texas barn, two locked in a dog cage and the others smeared with excrement, authorities said Wednesday.

Law enforcement found the children Tuesday morning while responding to a domestic disturbance call at a property near Rhome, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Fort Worth.

The three boys and girl were released from a hospital Tuesday evening and placed into foster care, a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said. The agency did not say if the children have been placed together or split up.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said deputies found the oldest two kids locked in a 3-by-3 foot (90-by-90 centimeter) cage and the other two were filthy and only partially clothed. Akin called it the worst case of child abuse he has seen in his 44-year career.

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Paige Isabow Harkings and Andrew Joseph Fabila, who are both 24, were each charged with four counts of criminal child endangerment and were being held in the Wise County Jail. His bond was set at $60,000 Wednesday afternoon, while hers was set at $75,000.

Harkings was also charged with aggravated assault, and Fabila was taken to an area hospital to have “numerous lacerations on his face” treated before being jailed, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. She is the mother to all four children, while he is the father of one, according to authorities.

The 4-year-old girl and the boys, aged 5, 3 and 1, are “doing OK,” according to Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales. She declined to share details of their condition and treatment.

Akin said the children were starving and that a plentiful supply of food had been locked inside cabinets and a refrigerator in the barn. Deputies fed the kids and gave them water before taking them to the hospital, according to the sheriff’s office.

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Law enforcement and Department of Family and Protective Services staff are still investigating the case, Gonzales said.