The mother of three children found abandoned and living with the skeletal remains of another child for around a year in an apartment near Houston, Texas has been questioned by authorities and released.
The woman and her boyfriend, neither of whom have been named, were located and interviewed by homicide investigators with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) on Monday.
HCSO told The Independent they were both released without charge but that “charges are pending”.
It is not clear if the boyfriend is the father of any of the children.
Investigators had been trying to track down the parents of the children following the grim discovery at an apartment complex in Harris County on Sunday.
Three children, aged 15, 10 and seven, were found malnourished and living in “deplorable conditions” at the home at 3530 Green Crest.
The skeleton of another child, thought to be the nine-year-old brother of the other three, was found lying in the open in the apartment and decomposing.
The sheriff’s office said it received a call from the 15-year-old boy around 3.15pm on Sunday afternoon, saying his nine-year-old brother had been dead for a year and his body was lying in the room next to his.
The teen told authorities his parents had not been living with him and his two surviving siblings at the apartment for several months.
Deputies responded to the scene and found the remains of a small child which appeared consistent with a nine-year-old as well as the three surviving children.
All three appeared to be underfed and showed signs of physical injury, HCSO said.
They were taken to hospital for treatment and to be assessed.
The manner and cause of death of the fourth child is yet to be determined.
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences is working to determine both the child’s identity and how they died.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a press conference Sunday that the child had been dead for “an extended period of time”.
“It appears that the remains had been there for an extended period of time. And I emphasize extended,” Sheriff Gonzalez said.
The sheriff said the surviving children had been living alone for “quite a long time” and were “fending for each other” while the remains of the other child decomposed around them.
“It seems that they were in there while the body was deteriorating,” he said.
He added: “I haven’t been told they were necessarily locked in, but at that age, it appears they were basically fending for each other.”
Sheriff Gonzalez said he had never seen anything as “horrific” as this throughout his career.
“A very horrific situation out here, very tragic,” he said.
“I’ve been in this business a long time and I had never heard of a scenario like this. It really caught me by surprise.”
He added: “Our hearts break for those three.”