DA going after child abusers and neglectors

February 24, 2010 9:25:03 PM PST
Harris County's district attorney is on a crusade to lock up people who abuse or neglect children. It's something she is seeing more and more cases of. The numbers are startling - Harris County has the most child fatalities due to abuse or neglect in the state of Texas. District Attorney Pat Lykos is making it her mission to go after the abusers.

What happened in a northwest Harris County home to this day still has neighbors curious.

"We never really knew the story about what had gone on. All we knew is that a baby had died," said neighbor Jesse Adams.

And it was horrible. Angry that his one-year-old son wouldn't nap, investigators say William Minaker put the boy in a plastic container, put the container in an unventilated closet and left him there. It was late last May and the air conditioner wasn't on. The boy died.

Minaker is now sitting in jail. The case against Minaker is one of six the Harris County District Attorney's Office has recently filed involving child deaths.

"We want to put them so far away that they'd have to pipe the light to them," said Lykos.

She has made prosecuting this type of crime a priority.

"The crimes that are the most monstrous are the ones created against the most vulnerable among us and that would be children," Lykos said.

When she took office in January 2009, she increased staffing in the Crimes Against Children division and created the Child Endangerment section. Now two startling numbers reinforce the need.

In a report released last week by the state, it shows Harris County has the highest number of abuse and neglect related child fatalities, and the number from 2008 to 2009 almost doubled. The county with the next highest was Dallas with 38 fewer and the increase over 2008 there was minimal.

"We don't know if it's a fluke or an anomaly or if this is going to continue," said Estella Olguin of Child Protective Services.

CPS will analyze the numbers to try to come up with answers. Olguin says what they do know is that the majority are the very young, from birth to three years old, those who can't speak up. The little boy who died in a box in a closet here fits right in.

"This doesn't happen in a vacuum and people shouldn't maintain their silence. If they're worried about a child, report it. Please don't let them suffer in silence," said Lykos.

The recent charges in the six separate cases range from capital murder to injury to a child. All but one of the accused are in the Harris County Jail. The district attorney told us she hopes to add more resources and staff to child the abuse division and wants to enlist faith-based entities to form prevention programs.