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Texas officials remove 11 children from home of sex offender

February 22, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Texas officials have removed 11 children from this home in Dayton. The children range in age from 5 months to 11, and some were found tied to their beds.
Texas officials have removed 11 children from this home in Dayton. The children… (Johnny Hanson / Houston…)

Reporting from Houston — Texas authorities have removed 11 children from the home of a registered sex offender after they found many confined, some tied to their beds.

At least 10 adults were living in the one-story, 1,700-square-foot home in the rural ranch and rice farming town of Dayton, about 30 miles northeast of Houston, Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman Gwen Carter told The Times on Wednesday.

Residents at the home included Mark E. Marsh III, convicted in Michigan 15 years ago of criminal sexual conduct with a 15-year-old girl, according to sex offender registry records.

The children recovered by authorities from the house ranged in age from 5 months to 11 years old, and three had not been enrolled in school, Carter said. They belong to seven families and are all related -- some siblings, some cousins, she said.

The children were removed after authorities responded to a complaint about the house in January and found a pair of 2-year-old children tied to a bed, according to court records released to the Associated Press.

Marsh was not at the house at the time of the raid, Carter said.

"We were concerned because of the condition of the children and of the home," Carter said.

Carter said the home was not registered as a foster home or day care.

After the children were removed, two were hospitalized with what authorities feared was pneumonia. All have been checked by a doctor and placed in foster homes. The older children are enrolled in schools, Carter said.

One child had a black eye and a tooth that appeared to have been knocked out. A legally blind 5-year-old girl “was in a restraint on a filthy mattress, and appeared to be in a daze,’’ according to the court records.

Adults in the house told investigators they tied the children to their beds when they slept or took a nap during the day “for safety,’’ court documents said.

An investigator told the Associated Press that none of the adults in the house said they saw anything wrong with tying up the children.

Carter said a court hearing concerning the children is scheduled for March 9 at Liberty County District Court.

"The plan is to talk about if there are appropriate relatives who can take them in and out of state," Carter said.

Authorities also found two teenage runaways staying at the house. The boys, both 16, admitted running away from foster homes, stealing a car found at the house and smoking marijuana, authorities said.

Dayton Police Sgt. Doug O’Quinn told the Associated Press that officials have yet to bring criminal charges against any of the adults in the house, but that the investigation was ongoing. He did not return calls Wednesday.

Liberty County Dist. Atty. Mike Little told The Times that his office would present a case to a grand jury next month, but he declined to discuss possible suspects or charges.

"We're still gathering facts," he said. "There were a lot of people at the house and we're still trying to sort out who was responsible for what."

The home sits amid a subdivision surrounded by farm and ranch land. A tricycle and other toys littered the backyard this week, with several cars parked nearby and a "No Trespassing" sign out front.

People leaving the home declined to talk to reporters gathered outside Tuesday.

Neighbor Wayne Hardin told the Associated Press that he never saw the youngest children and was unaware so many people were living in the house.

“I was shocked,’’ Hardin said. “We didn’t have a clue.’’

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