A Massachusetts woman charged with locking her 3-year-old son in a filthy, sweltering attic had been arrested previously for assault and battery with a knife.
Kirsten Paquette, 27, was arraigned Friday on charges of reckless endangerment to a child and assault and battery on a child. She was held on $10,000 bail.
Her family and attorney portrayed the Lowell woman as an overwhelmed mother dealing with an especially unruly child. The boy's siblings told police, "Mommy does this when she gets angry."
Court records show Paquette was arrested in 2004 after a fight with a man. She was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Photos in the file showed a carving-style knife.
The case was continued without a finding. Paquette was placed on probation.
Building case against mom
Police responding to a report of a 3-year-old being locked in a sweltering, filthy attic were told by other children, "Mommy does this when she gets angry," a prosecutor said Friday.
Police said the boy was naked, covered in urine and feces, and had several minor bumps on his forehead when officers acting on a tip went to the Lowell home Thursday. They estimated the temperature inside the attic at over 100 degrees. The door to the room was locked, and the only window inside was nailed shut, said prosecutor Dan Harren. Feces-covered child-size fingerprints were on the wall, he said.
Outside the attic was a similarly filthy mattress, surrounded by hundreds of flies, Harren said. Health officials condemned the apartment afterward.
Officers said another boy and a girl at the home told them Paquette took the 3-year-old by his arms "and dragged him upstairs to the attic." The children told officers such things happened "a lot."
Harren said the children told authorities, "Mommy does this when she gets angry." One boy told police his sibling "was bad, so Mommy put him upstairs and changed the door handle," according to the police report.
The prosecutor added in court, "When asked how long the child had been upstairs, the defendant admitted, 'About an hour,' in a nonchalant manner." She said she had punished the child because he would "interrupt cleaning."
Father defends woman
The woman's father, Alfred Paquette, attended the arraignment and said afterward that police were misrepresenting the situation. He said his daughter is a single mother who is overwhelmed by her four children — a daughter and three sons.
Alfred Paquette said the first floor of the home is clean, and the four children seem happy and never appeared abused.
"I was in the apartment yesterday morning. ... I didn't smell nothing. It just smelled like a home," he said. "My daughter isn't some evil monster that she's being portrayed to be. She's just a regular mom, and she has a child that needs special services. She's been trying to get him help and nobody's helping her."
Paquette said the boy in the attic was born three months premature, has chronic lung problems and exhibited behavioral problems despite reassurances from doctors who have examined him.
"He's like a child with ADHD on steroids. He's very hyperactive," Paquette said.
'There's no abuse'
He said his daughter was raised in Lowell and is unemployed. She has been abandoned by the fathers of her boys, he said, and only has contact with the father of the girl.
He said his ex-wife is attempting to gain custody of the children and that other relatives have offered to take in his daughter.
Richard Paquette, the woman's uncle, told reporters there was nothing wrong with disciplining out-of-control children.
"You've got to try to get some kind of control. There's no abuse, no abuse whatsoever," he said.
Paquette's defense attorney, Kathleen Moore, told Judge Neil Walker, "It is clear this is a woman who needed help and didn't know how to ask for it and didn't ask for it."
Two of the other children, ages 6 and 9, were placed in state custody, as was a third child who wasn't home at the time. Alfred Paquette said he was with the child at Fenway Park, watching the Boston Red Sox defeat the Oakland Athletics.