A man was charged Tuesday in the strangling death of his 11-year-old stepsister who was starved by her parents and slept in a locked room inside an upstate NY house filled with garbage and more than 100 cats, police said.
Alan Jones, 27, was indicted on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Erin Maxwell on Aug. 29. The girl died a day after she was found unconscious in her bedroom with a green cord around her neck, one end caught on a nail in a window frame.
Lindsey Maxwell, 35, the girl's father, and Lynn Maxwell, 53, her stepmother, were each charged with six counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
"Erin was being raised in a home with over 100 cats, as well as caged poultry. The home reeked of animal urine. There was animal feces over 18 inches deep in one of the rooms," State Police Capt. Mark Lincoln said.
Victim weighed only 65 pounds
Investigators found that Erin was given "minimal amounts of food" and routinely locked every night in a small bedroom. She weighed only 65 pounds, Lincoln said.
Defense attorney Salvatore Lanza said Tuesday his clients maintain their innocence. They earlier had suggested Erin accidentally hanged herself while acting out a scene from her favorite movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."
"It's their contention that this unfortunate incident is a horribly tragic accident," Lanza said.
The Maxwell family had been investigated by social workers three times from 2003 to 2006, according to a report by county social service officials. In each of those times, social workers reported conditions in the home were marginal but found that Erin was in no danger and that they had no lawful reason to remove her from the home.
Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life in prison. The endangering charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail.
Jones was being held in the Oswego County Jail on $100,000 bail. He is expected in county court Wednesday.