Poplar Bluff child 'tortured,' rescued from filthy home

Poplar Bluff child 'tortured,' rescued from filthy home
Published: May. 17, 2016 at 12:11 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 27, 2017 at 12:23 PM CDT
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POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - A man and woman from Poplar Bluff, Missouri are behind bars after police say they found a 12-year-old boy living in "deplorable conditions."

According to the Poplar Bluff Police Department, Michael West, 41, and Vanessa May, 35, were arrested on May 15 on charges of abuse to a vulnerable person in the second degree, two counts of child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree.

They were arrested after police and an investigator from the Division of Family Services responded to West and May's home in the 1200 block of Harper Street on May 10.

According to court documents, when officers arrived at the home they found a lot of things stacked around the home, leaving very little usable living space. They also said they noticed cockroaches crawling on the walls and floors throughout the apartment.

Police accuse West and May of keeping May's 12-year-old son in an empty bedroom with concrete floors and no lighting.

May told investigators that her son was on medication for Aspergers syndrome and ADHD which made him urinate on himself, according to court documents. She told police that they took everything out of his bedroom because he urinated everywhere and put an air mattress in the room at bedtime.

Court documents show May also told the officers that her son would bang his head on the floor and walls, which led to bruises on his face.

Officers reported they asked about the other children that live in the apartment and May told them that the children slept in another bedroom. There, officers said they saw stacks of totes all over the room stacked about 5 feet high. Investigators said there was a small section of the room where two mattresses for the children to sleep on and the only light source was a night light, according to a police report.

May and West were asked if there was somewhere the other children could stay during the investigation, and West called his dad to pick up the kids. According to a report, that's when West became angry and accused his next door neighbor of reporting the family to police. One of the officers on scene told West he did not know who made the report, and told West to leave his neighbor alone.

After the other children were taken to a family member's home, officers were called back to the neighbor's apartment. The neighbor told police that West threatened to kill him. That's when West was placed in handcuffs.

The 12-year-old boy was taken from the home and transported to a St. Louis hospital for medical evaluations. According to court documents, they showed the boy suffered from severe physical abuse, to the point of torture, and doctors believed his life could be in danger.

According to police, the child has Asperger Syndrome and had numerous suspicious scars and bruises over his body.

Doctors said the boy also suffered from "severe wasting of soft tissue with loss of both subcutaneous fat and muscle tissue."

The child is being treated for stabilization and management.

The police report also noted that this is not the first time the children in the home have been evaluated. In 2010, two of the children in the home were evaluated at a St. Louis hospital. They were checked for physical and sexual abuse. According to the report, one of the children "demonstrated behavior that is consistent with sexual abuse/assault." The doctor also indicated that the now 12-year-old victim was allegedly at an "elevated risk for sexual abuse due to what happened to his sister."

The police report also showed that May was under investigation as of Feb. 1, 2016 for endangering the welfare of a child which also involved the 12-year-old boy.

May is also listed on the Missouri State Highway Patrol's sex offender registry. According to the registry, she was convicted in Utah in 2002 for two counts of attempted unlawful sexual intercourse. Her victim was 15 years old.

West and May are in custody at the Butler County Justice Center. West's bond was set at $500,000 cash only. May is being held on a $250,000 cash only bond.

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