AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Three boys, malnourished and barefoot, were found wandering around the city. When police went to their home, they found a house neat and clean -- except for the closet where the boys said they had been locked in for weeks at a time.
Now, their mother and her lover have been arrested and charged with abusing the boys, ages 8, 10 and 14.
Mary Rowles, 30, the boys' mother, has been charged with five felony counts of child endangering. Her lover, Alice Jenkins, 27, was charged with five felony counts of child endangering and two counts of felonious assault that accuse her of hitting a child with a hammer and kicking the children.
Rowles and Jenkins were arrested Friday after the boys were found wandering around early Monday morning. Both made an initial appearance in Akron Municipal Court on Saturday and posted bond of $10,000.
The boys, along with two other boys, ages 6 and 13, and a 12-year-old girl, have been removed from the home.
"This is the worst case I've ever come in contact with," police detective Crystal Bowen-Carter said. "I've never seen anything like this."
Police said the closet reeked of urine and was dark except for light that came in at the bottom of the door.
A dresser was used to block the door and the boys told detectives they were allowed out three times a day to eat and use the bathroom. They were allowed a small bowl of dry cereal for breakfast and half a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and dinner.
Police said the boys told them they had been hit with a hammer, whipped with a belt, kicked in the groin and forced to eat animal feces. The 10-year-old and 8-year-old said they had been in the closet since mid-February and said the other boys were held in the closet for various lengths of time.
When the boys were found, the 6-year-old weighed 29 pounds, the 8-year-old 28 pounds, the 10-year-old 40 pounds, the 13-year-old 60 pounds and the 14-year-old 75 pounds. The girl was well-fed and hadn't had to spend time in the closet, police said.
Jenkins -- who the children were ordered to call "Dad" -- disciplined the children, police said. Rowles took a more passive role.
"For some unknown reason, she (Rowles) allowed this to happen to her children," Bowen-Carter said. "It's something no mother, you'd think, would ever put her kids through."
The Children Services Board is investigating why a caseworker didn't visit the home until January despite complaints about Rowles since the late 1980s, spokeswoman Louise Miller said.
"There were a variety, some involving abuse, some neglect and some family things," Miller said.