The mother of three siblings found abandoned in a Houston-area apartment along with the skeletal remains of their 8-year-old brother told authorities she did not report the death because she was afraid, according to court documents.
The mother, Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, Brian Coulter, were both arrested Tuesday and charged in the death of Kendrick Lee. Authorities believe Kendrick was killed around Thanksgiving last year.
A criminal complaint accuses Coulter of kicking the child and striking him with his hand. It says Coulter "intentionally, knowingly and recklessly" caused serious injury to Kendrick, resulting in his death.
Before her arrest, Williams told investigators she did not report the death because Coulter had told her not to, and she was afraid she would go to jail and lose custody of her children if police knew, the documents state.
Attorneys for Williams and Coulter did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.
After Kendrick had been beaten, Williams went into the room and saw him lying on the floor, NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston reported after a probable cause hearing. The other three children — ages 15, 10, and 7 — had witnessed the attack, and Williams made them leave while she fought with Coulter, the station reported, citing court documents that were read aloud.
The 7- and 10-year-olds told authorities they saw Coulter use his fist and feet to hit Kendrick on his face, buttocks, back, legs and testicles, according to the court documents.
"Brian Coulter continued to stare at (Kendrick) as he kicked him. (The 7-year-old) said (Kendrick’s) eyes were black and he stopped blinking during the assault. (The 7-year-old) said they pulled back the covers and saw (Kendrick) was really dead and saw roaches everywhere on him,” court records state.
The 15-year-old said Williams moved out of the apartment months after the fatal beating, in March, court documents state.
Authorities were called to the apartment Sunday after the 15-year-old contacted police and said his brother's body was in the room next to his. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boy led officers to a crime scene that shook even the most seasoned investigators because of circumstances "too horrific to be real." The dead child was found underneath a blanket.
"In the midst of the darkness and this horrific situation, I'm so glad that this 15-year-old finally reached out for help," Gonzalez said at a news conference Wednesday. "I'm glad that he found assistance at the end of the other line with one of our call-takers. And I'm comforted to know that when he opened the door, and there was a Harris County Sheriff's Office deputy there, that they could finally receive the care and protection that they needed for so long."
According to Gonzalez, the apartment was unfurnished, full of roaches and flies and had soiled carpeting. The three children were thin, malnourished and hungry, authorities said.
Family members of Williams said they had no idea Kendrick was dead and the other three children had been abandoned. They told KPRC that Williams was estranged from the family and only reached out when she needed money.
"Every three to six months she has a new phone number,” said cousin Yasmin Creag. "Every three to six months she’s moving apartments, so we never have a solid address for her."
Creag said when they could reach Williams and they would ask how the children were, she would tell them that everyone was fine.
"She kept saying they’re OK, they’re in school. Anytime we did go help and ask, ‘Where the kids at?’ She would say, ‘Oh, they are in school.’ We never had an apartment number," Creag said. "She (would) always be like, ‘I’ll meet y’all at the front of the apartments.’ We didn’t think anything of it."
The family said Williams has a total of six children ranging in age from 7 to 17 but did not have custody of her two girls, who were not in the apartment. Kendrick and another boy had autism, the family told the news station. According to Creag, Kendrick was mostly non-verbal.
"My momma has been asking for Kendrick since the day he was born and she kept telling her no," Creag said. "We knew that with all of these kids, eventually, she was not going to be able to be the best parent she could be."
The family said they will fight to get custody of the three children abandoned in the apartment.