New Brunswick

Parents guilty of endangering 5 children who were smeared with feces, with little to eat

A Saint John couple have been found guilty of child endangerment after their five children were found smeared with feces in a house strewn with garbage and with little food or clothing.

Children's living conditions described as facts of case read in court

The parents of five children who were found smeared with feces, and in other horrific living conditions were found guilty of child endangerment. The couple agreed to a statement of facts read out in Saint John provincial court Friday. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

A Saint John couple have been found guilty of child endangerment after their five children were found smeared with feces in a house strewn with garbage and with little food or clothing.

A court order prohibits publication of any details that would identify the children or their parents, who each pleaded guilty earlier this month to five counts of failing to provide the children with the necessaries of life, thereby committing child endangerment.

According to the facts read Friday by Crown prosecutor Patrick Wilbur, four sheriff's officers entered the house to execute an eviction order on May 17, 2016, and were so alarmed by the conditions that they immediately called for help from the Department of Social Development and Saint John police.

The youngest of the children in the home was an infant.

The residence itself was smeared with human and animal feces, and the officers saw garbage and soiled clothes.

No clothes on

Three boys were discovered in one room, two of them without clothes. They were also smeared with feces on the face and chest, Wilbur said.

Steps were taken to put one child into a car seat, court heard, but the only one at hand had straps that were so deteriorated it was unusable.

One child was observed playing with what was described as home-made nunchucks, a martial arts weapon, which had jagged edges.

One child had three blackened teeth, and another had sores around the eyes.

Someone also observed fleas jumping inside the home, Wilbur said.

Little food in home

The fridge was reported to be nearly empty and there was very little food in the kitchen cupboards.

The court also heard that the children's medicare cards had lapsed two years earlier. The mother had been on social assistance since 2008 and would have had access to free dental care for the children.

Although the parents had already entered guilty pleas in earlier court appearances, provincial court Judge Marco Cloutier asked them on Friday to confirm the truth of each fact as it was read out in court. 

As part of the evidence, the court also received photo exhibits.

Cloutier also asked both parents if they had pleaded guilty voluntarily and if they understood that would mean no trial.

Date set for sentencing hearing

He also said he wouldn't be bound by sentencing recommendations from either the defence or the Crown.

After making sure the couple understood what was happening, he pronounced them both guilty.

Wilbur said he would likely submit a victim impact statement from the landlord and others. 

The court also expects to receive pre-sentencing reports.

A full day has been set aside for the sentencing hearing on Feb. 7.

The parents are not in custody. There was no discussion in open court about where the children are now.


Rachel Cave is a CBC reporter based in Saint John, New Brunswick.