San Rafael, Calif. A man and four women who shared a home with their 13 children were charged with murder and child neglect Monday in the death of one toddler and the malnourishment of the 12 other youngsters.
The 19-month-old toddler Â whose bones were extremely brittle Â was pronounced dead of severe malnutrition and neglect at a hospital in November after the women brought him in. The other children Â ranging in age from 8 months to 16 years Â were quickly put into emergency foster care.
All were severely malnourished and most suffered from rickets, a bone-softening disease almost unheard of in suburban America. It is caused by a lack of vitamin D or calcium.
None of the children were enrolled in public school, said Marin County sheriff's Detective Fred Marziano. Neighbors rarely saw them emerge from the upscale rental home, where heavy white drapes prevent any view of the inside.
"When they told us how many children were there, I nearly fell out of my shoes," neighbor Connie Williams told the Marin Independent Journal. "We hardly ever saw them."
Because the adults refused to cooperate, it took three months for police to unravel what went on inside the modest beige house.
Winnfred Wright, 45, and the women, Carol Bremner, 44, Mary Campbell, 37, Deirdre Wilson, 37, and Kali Polk-Matthews, 20, were arrested Friday and held without bail for an arraignment Monday afternoon.
Because none of the defendants cooperated with police, it took DNA tests to determine that Wright fathered all the children.
"We don't know exactly what their affiliation is together other than they are cohabiting and producing children," Marziano said.
Wright, Bremner, Campbell and Wilson each face charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Polk-Matthews faces one count of involuntary manslaughter. All face child endangerment charges.