The mother of three children kept in a “deplorable” home in Houston with a decaying body and no adults for months was arrested late Tuesday along with her boyfriend.
Gloria Williams, 35, is charged with failure to provide medical care and adequate supervision as well as injury to a child by omission, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. Brian Coulter, 31, is charged with felony murder, according to Gonzalez. Police had located and questioned the pair Sunday but released them.
When police arrived at the home in the CityParc II at West Oaks Apartments on Sunday afternoon, they found three siblings ages 7, 10, and 15 and the skeletal remains of a 9-year-old who had died sometime in 2020 one room over. On Tuesday, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office announced the 9-year-old suffered multiple blunt force injuries, and his death has been ruled a homicide. After the three boys were taken to the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old’s face. Two of the three boys who survived were deemed malnourished.
ABC13 reported that the 15-year-old boy texted Williams, who lived just 15 minutes away, before blowing the lid on the shocking house of horrors.
As Houston police investigate, one thing is becoming clear: Warning signs were missed.
The siblings had not been enrolled in school since May 2020. A neighbor found the older boy sleeping in a playground. Another neighbor complained about the persistent foul odor coming from the apartment.
In the end, it was the teen who had been caring for the three younger kids— in the absence of any adults—who summoned police to the home over the weekend.
Gonzalez called it the most shocking scenario he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement.
Authorities have not explained why the kids were alone, how they survived on their own, how one of them died, or how no one noticed what was happening.
“In Texas, the first line of defense has always been teachers after our parents and family,” Dr. Bob Sanborn of child-advocacy group Children at Risk told Fox26. “These kids fell through the cracks in terms of identifying the problem.”
Beyond the kids vanishing from the school system during the pandemic, there were other red flags.
The woman who lived next door to the children’s unit told ABC13 that the smell coming the apartment was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning and she complained to the management office more than once.
The managers have declined comment.
Another local resident, Erica Chapman, told KHOU that she spoke to the oldest child after seeing him asleep on a playground slide.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman said.
“He wouldn’t talk about his parents,” Chapman said, adding that she did not pressure him because “I did not want him to not come to me for food. If you’re that hungry, I want him to come to me because I at least knew he was eating.”
Chapman said she was “disgusted” by what she later learned.
“If I knew something was wrong with any of those kids, I would have took all of them,” she said.
Local Child Protective Services officials took custody of the three remaining siblings but has not explained how it did not know they were endangered for so long.
“Child Protective Services does have history with the family, but there was no active CPS investigation at the time the children were discovered alone in their apartment,” CPS said in a statement.