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Parents Arrested After 7 Malnourished Kids Found Living Amid Rats, Feces, Maggots

West Rockhill, PA – Seven malnourished children were taken into protective custody earlier this month after police found them living amid feces, caged rats, and various reptiles inside a Pennsylvania trailer home.

Investigators said the children’s parents had also placed a padlock on the refrigerator door to stop the kids – ages four to 16 – from “stealing” food, CNN reported.

According to an affidavit filed on May 19, Pennridge Regional Police Department (PRPD) officers first made contact with the family on April 23, after a neighbor called to report having seen several of the children entering an abandoned home and removing items from it, WXYZ reported.

Police arrived at the scene and made contact with a 12-year-old girl who told them she had gone into the house to look for a blanket for her rats because her family did not have very much money, according to investigators.

A moment later, a 14-year-old girl wearing filthy clothes and boots that were too big for her feet came out of the home, further concerning the officers, WXYZ reported.

Police stayed at the home until the children’s parents, 37-year-old Crystal Robertson and 47-year-old Shane Robertson, arrived back at the property.

The Robertsons both agreed to let police see inside the house, so the officers went in with them.

Once inside, they noticed the refrigerator was chained closed with a padlock, WXYZ reported.

According to court documents, Crystal Robertson said the kids were “stealing” too much food and that she had no choice but to lock up the fridge.

Investigators said she also referred to them as “garbage disposals with legs.”

The rest of the area the officers could see inside the house was in “obvious disrepair and disarray,” the officers noted in the affidavit.

When police asked Shane Robertson if there were any more children who lived there, he said they have one other daughter, WXYZ reported.

Officers said in court documents that the third girl also appeared unkempt.

The officers subsequently filed a Childline Report and returned to the residence to have the children taken to the hospital for medical evaluations, WXYZ reported.

But they soon discovered the Robertsons actually had seven children hidden in their house – not just three.

Police said Shane Robertson told them he lied about how many kids they had because he was afraid he would get into trouble if he told the truth, according to WXYZ.

Medical personnel at Grand View Hospital determined all seven of the children suffered from malnourishment, according to investigators.

Two had low kidney function, two were positive for COVID-19, and three were suffering from fevers, WXYZ reported.

One girl had maggots in her hair, and some of the children had dental and vision problems, as well as social anxiety.

Investigators discovered none of them had any formal education, WXYZ reported.

They lacked basic knowledge, with some having no idea when their birthdate might be, according to WLS.

“Personal hygiene of the children was also found to be concerning, resulting in two of the children having to shave their hair due to severe matting,” the PRPD said, according to CNN.

The home had a stench and contained an estimated two dozen rats that were confined to two separate cages, according to police.

Officers also located a four-foot reptile, snakes, toads, two turtles, two dogs, and two rabbits inside the house, WXYZ reported.

They said they observed holes in the walls and at least one pile of feces on the floor.

Garbage was also strewn about the home, according to investigators.

Shane and Crystal Robertson were both arrested on seven felony counts of endangering the welfare of children, CNN reported.

Their bail amounts were set at $10,000 each.

They were both released from jail on May 26.

The children are all being cared for by the Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services Agency, according to CNN.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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