Crime

2 kids missed school days, so a deputy went to the home. What he found led to charges

Tiffany Burton, 32, of Peculiar, Missouri
Tiffany Burton, 32, of Peculiar, Missouri Cass County Sheriff's Office

A Kansas City area mother of five is facing criminal charges after deputies found her children living inside a home with farm animals, trash, fleas, feces and urine and rotting food.

The children, ages 2 to 12, have since been taken into protective custody by the state.

The mother, identified in court records as Tiffany Burton, has been charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

According to court records:

A deputy from the Cass County Sheriff's Office went to the home in rural Peculiar, Missouri, on May 16 to contact the parents of two children who had been sent home from school May 9 for having head lice. A school resource officer with the Raymore Police Department said he was concerned when the children hadn't returned to school a week later.

The deputy arrived at the home at around 1:20 p.m. May 16, which was described as a double-wide manufactured home placed on a walk-out basement. The outside was cluttered with toys and trash, he noted.

The front door to the home was "fully opened," court records said. Inside the home, the deputy said he noticed "a strong odor," as well as piles of trash and debris. Two partially nude children came out to the living room after the deputy entered the home. He asked both children if he could speak to an adult.

While waiting, court records said the deputy could hear chickens inside a crate in the living room.

Burton emerged from a bedroom several minutes later, and told the deputy she had just woken up. The 32-year-old mother said the children were supposed to go to school that day, but she had overslept and didn't take them, according to court records.

The deputy told Burton the living conditions in the house "did not appear to be safe or sanitary" for the children there. In response, Burton allegedly said she was aware, and that she wanted to leave the house and blamed her husband for not helping her keep it clean.

Burton told the deputy she had five children ages 10, 8, 12, 6 and 2, court records said.

Court records said Burton then agreed to allow the deputy to do a walk-through of the home to assess their living conditions further.

The deputy said he observed feces and mold on the floor, fleas, rotten food throughout the home as well as chickens, dogs and a pig living in the home.

Most of the children had red marks and scratches on their legs as well as bruising, the deputy noted.

According to court records, a worker with the Cass County Children's Division later arrived at the home after the deputy tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect hotline. The children's division worker reportedly told the deputy there was an open investigation on the children at the home, and that they had recently developed a plan to have the children stay in the master bedroom where it was said to be cleaner and less dangerous than the rest of the home.

The deputy disagreed.

By 3 p.m., another deputy arrived in a van to take the children into protective custody. During that time, some of the children told deputies they hadn't eaten in two to three days.

Burton was taken into custody that day, and was released without charges.

By Thursday, the prosecuting attorney's office filed five felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child against Burton, court records show.

A criminal summons was also issued Thursday, though a sheriff's office spokesman noted Burton won't be arrested because the court didn't issue a warrant.

She is scheduled to be arraigned July 5 in Cass County Circuit Court.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric eme

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