Child whose skeletal remains were found in Houston apartment killed by ‘homicidal violence’ medical examiner says
Andy Rose, Jennifer Henderson, Ralph Ellis and Raja Razek, CNN
(CNN) — The cause of death of the child whose body was found abandoned in an apartment in Houston has been ruled “homicidal violence with multiple blunt force injuries,” according to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
The child’s mother and her boyfriend have been charged after authorities found three young siblings abandoned in the home along with the body of their brother, police said Tuesday.
Brian W. Coulter, 31, was charged with murder in the death of an 8-year-old child who died in 2020, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a tweet.
Sheriff’s deputies made the horrifying discovery on Sunday when they found three children — 15, 10 and 7 years old — and the dead body of the child.
“I had never heard of a scenario like this. It really caught me by surprise,” Gonzalez said in a news conference Sunday.
The mother, Gloria Y. Williams, 35, was charged with injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse, Gonzalez said.
Bond for Coulter has been set at $1 million and for Williams at $350,000 and both remain in custody, according to online court documents.
Efforts by CNN to find out whether either has an attorney were unsuccessful Wednesday.
In a news release, the sheriff’s office said the 15-year-old called authorities and said his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the room next to his. The teen said his parents had not lived in the apartment for several months.
“It seems that they were in there while the body was deteriorating,” Gonzalez said, referring to the other children.
Neighbors told CNN affiliate KTRK that the 15-year-old boy relied on them for food.
One of them, Erica Chapman, told KTRK that she started giving him food six months ago after noticing that the mother was rarely there.
“She would come and park, and he would run down and grab noodles, drinks and chips and run back up,” Chapman said.
Another said the 15-year-old had knocked on his door and asked to use a charger, “and we built a bond from there,” Trevor Thompson told KTRK.
“I started offering him food because I knew he needed more than just a charger,” Thompson said.
“A few times I noticed the lights weren’t on, and it was quiet upstairs, so I figured there was trouble because the parents haven’t been there in a while,” Thompson said.
Both neighbors said they didn’t know there were other children and didn’t call authorities “because they didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation,” according to KTRK.
Investigators found the body unconcealed in the apartment, Gonzalez said. He didn’t know exactly how or when the child died.
“It appears the remains had been there for an extended period of time, and I emphasize extended,” he said. When asked if he meant for weeks, he said “much longer than that.”
Gonzalez said it looked like the 15-year-old had been taking care of his younger siblings the best he could.
“It appears that they were basically fending for each other,” Gonzalez said, adding that the children were living in “pretty deplorable conditions.”
The two younger children appeared malnourished and showed signs of physical injury, the sheriff’s office said. All three were transported to a hospital for treatment.
They are now in the emergency custody of The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, according to a statement sent to CNN by DFPS.
In May 2020, three of the children stopped attending school in the Alief Independent School District, according to Kimberly N. Smith, director of public relations and communications at AISD. Smith did not specify which three children she was referring to.
In 2019, school district officials began a truancy investigation into the mother for one of the children’s lack of attendance, but the case was dismissed at the end of the 2019-2020 school year by the District Attorney’s Office, Smith said.
“The children did not attend school during the 2020-2021 nor 2021-2022 school years. In September 2020, school personnel attempted a home visit in an effort to return the children to school which went unanswered,” Smith added.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said it plans “to get to the bottom of what these children have endured.”
“Our specialized prosecutors continue to work with the sheriff’s deputies, as this horror is thoroughly investigated,” spokesperson Dane Schiller said in an email to CNN.