Four Little Children Starved and Neglected Locked in Filthy Room 1896

No nourishment for fifteen hours
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A case of apparent neglect and cruelty was unearthed yesterday by the officers of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Four little children who had been left without care or proper food and locked up in a little room all day yesterday were released and taken under the charge of the society. Officer Smith heard that some children were being badly treated by their parents at 39 Jamaica avenue.

He learned that the parents were Henry Kellner and his wife Mary. Yesterday afternoon at 3 o'clock he went tot he house and found the door of the Kellners' home locked, but could hear the children in the rooms. At 6 o'clock Officer Smith returned to the rooms and found the doors still locked. He then forced open the door, and with an assistant; entered the place. He described the scene as one of the most pitiable he had ever beheld in his long experience. Amid the greatest filth and dirt were four little children, the youngest a nursing baby, crawling about the floor of one of the rooms. The place was almost insufferably hot and suffocating and the air was vile. The children themselves were unclean and sickly looking, and each had on but a single garment.

After waiting awhile the officers left the place intending to return later. Officer smith consulted the other tenants of the house and heard a pitiful story. Mrs. Von Grechen, a sister of the Kellner woman, said that the couple were in the habit of leaving the babies from early in the morrning until midnight in some cases. The Kellners, she said, did no work while the children were sometimes sent out to beg.

The only food left for them yesterday was a few cold potatoes, some dry bread and unpalatably warm water and this, Mrs. Von Grechen said, was as good as the food usually left the children. The house is a two story frame one with two families on each floor. The other tenants corroborated Mrs. Von Grechen's story. The officers then left.

At 9 o'clock the parents returned to the house. They learned from the neighbors of what had occurred and concluded to leave to avoid arrest. Accordingly they gathered together their few household goods and taking the children left the place. Going to Vermont and Belmont avenues they found a vacant shanty which they took possession of and here they were found. Officer Smith secured the arrest of the parents on the charge of vagrancy.

This morning they were arraigned in the Gates avenue police court and, on pleading not guilty, were held for trial. The children are Kate, aged 8; Willie, aged 6; Mena, aged 5, and the baby, who is only 20 months old.

The baby had no nourishment from 5 o'clock in the morning until the mother returned at 9 o'clock. To the society was given the custody of the children. The trial of the parents on the vagrancy charge was postponed until August 14. On that day they will also have to face a charge of violating that section of the penal code, which prohibits the endangering of children's morals.


Website: The History
Article Name: Four Little Children Starved and Neglected Locked in Filthy Room 1896
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Eagle August 12, 1896 Page: 2
Time & Date Stamp: