Police: Disabled child was chained to bed

May 7, 2010 3:35:54 PM PDT
A south suburban couple has been charged with child neglect after police say they found an 8-year-old disabled girl wearing a nylon dog harness -- with a chain attaching her collar to a wooden crib and the leg of a bunk bed. Authorities they were called to the residence in Park Forest by a 6-year-old who dialed 911 after the couple allegedly left the children home alone.

Investigators at the Park Forest Police Department say the conditions in which they found the children were shocking. The officers responded to the 911 call, only to discover the frightened boy and his disabled cousin chained to a bed, her clothing wet and covered in waste.

Neighbors also were shocked to learn that the Park Forest house is where police say a couple left their 6-year old son home alone with the woman's 8-year-old disabled niece.

"You don't treat nobody like that, human or animal. Some people treat animals better than they treat humans, but for that to happen over there was a shock to all of us," said neighbor Stephen Anderson.

The girl's aunt and legal guardian Renee Dennis, 35, and her live-in boyfriend, 38-year-old Paul Coleman of Markham, were charged with felony criminal neglect of a disabled person and endangering the life or health of a child.

The child has cerebral palsy.

Coleman, who was convicted in 1998 of aggravated criminal sex abuse of a 6-year-old child, also has been charged with failure to register as a sex offender.

" I thought she was very attentive toward her son. She spoke of him all the time," neighborhood resident Mary Ross said.

Police arrived at the home in the 300-block of Seneca Street the morning of May 1. They boy had been playing on the phone and called 911 just before 11 a.m.

Once inside, investigators discovered the girl was chained to a bed.

According to authorities, neither Dennis nor Coleman were home at the time, but both were arrested when they arrived at the police station that afternoon.

Investigators say the couple admitted to leaving the children that morning so they could go grocery shopping and have lunch at an area hot dog stand.

Police say they also explained why Dennis tied up her niece.

"What was told by the mother was that she would make it difficult because she kept leaving. So, apparently, the solution was to chain and padlock her," said Chief Thomas Fleming Jr. of the Park Forest Police Department.

The home's driveway remained littered with construction debris Friday afternoon. An expired building permit for the addition of a second floor was taped to a front window.

Area residents say they are stunned by the incident.

"You never know what you got going on next door," said Sammie Garrott, a neighbor.

Both children were taken to the hospital to be checked out before being taken into the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services. A spokesperson said the department had not had prior contact with the family.

The children remain in foster care as DCFS conducts its own investigation. Park Forest police say their investigation continues, as well.


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