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Police reports reveal more about neglect

by David Cole
| December 8, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Two nearly 2-year-old twin girls appeared to be held in near constant isolation in a bedroom with bruises, burns and cuts that were infected, police reports revealed Tuesday.

Their mother, 26-year-old Elisabeth C. Crossley, was arrested Sunday and charged with two counts of felony injury to a child for the treatment of the children. The girls were taken from the mother at her apartment at 1201 N. Lincoln Way in Coeur d'Alene, and placed into the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The girls turn 2 on Dec. 14.

A passer-by walked by the girls' bedroom window and saw the conditions they were living in - naked, no blankets or bedding, lying face down on dirty carpet with garbage, including diapers, strewn about. Police would later find the walls smeared with fecal matter and the carpet soaked with human waste.

"As soon as I stepped into the room, I was overwhelmed by a choking-feces and strong ammonia-and-urine odors," one officer wrote in his report. "I was unable to breathe and began retching."

The girls were covered in feces.

Police reports said couch cushions were secured to the girls' bedroom door to muffle any sound coming from the room into the rest of the 800-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment.

An electrical outlet had no cover in the room. An electric baseboard heater was removed, exposing the girls "to the at times very hot element," a report said.

Officers found vertical claw marks in the paint and drywall, "as if the girls had been trying to claw their way out of the room in desperation."

The girls' grandmother, Ruth K. Cassidy, who also lived in the apartment, told police the girls had been without a bed for six months to a year. An arrest warrant has been issued for Cassidy.

Crossley was unemployed when she was arrested, and had been living off $450 a month in food stamps. Her mom and the two kids were the only people living with her.

She filed for divorce in August from the girls' father, Scott L. Crossley, claiming he was abusive, used multiple drugs, wasn't responsible and was unable to provide for the girls' needs, according to documents filed in Kootenai County court.

The couple were married in December 2002 in San Diego. In the divorce documents, she said he lives in California.

The documents said she was working at Center Partners making $9.50 an hour before she quit to work on acquiring new skills to work with computers.

The mother told police she had not cleaned the carpets in the room because it was too cold outside to open the window. She had a carpet steam cleaner in the apartment. Also, the stay-at-home mom said the girls make a mess on their bedroom walls with the fecal matter faster than she can clean it off.

According to the police reports, the girls had multiple red and infected looking scratches on their torsos. One girl had bruises on her back.

"It appeared she had been whipped on her back several times with an object, leaving distinct uniform bruises about a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch wide and about one inch long," a police report said.

The two women explained other bruises by saying the girls often ram their bodies against walls and furniture.

Cassidy used the injuries to tell the difference between the girls, she told police.

The officers also noticed the girls had poorly developed language skills for their age, hardly talking or making noises while in their presence.

Nurses at Kootenai Medical Center, who examined the girls, located areas on the backs of both girls' heads where hair was burnt or rubbed off. One girl's hairless spot on her head was swollen outward into a lump about three-quarters of an inch high, and was oozing pus, a report said.

A box spring was wedged in the closet to keep the girls from pounding on the wall.

The report said neighbors had made multiple complaints about noise coming from the apartment.

Apartment neighbors interviewed by The Press Tuesday said the girls regularly were heard screaming and crying. One woman, who didn't want to be identified, said some neighbors were feeling guilty that no one called authorities.

Neighbor Justin Chambers said, "I never heard them quiet."

Chambers, who has four kids of his own, was surprised he didn't see the girls outside playing in the snow like other youngsters.

"I never saw those kids outside," he said.

Apartment resident Matthew Brown - older brother of 26-year-old Tony Brown, who with his girlfriend, Brandy Conklin, reported the girls' living conditions to police - said, "Little kids are sacred."

He said when he looked in the window they would just be walking in circles in their bedroom. He was blown away by the apparent neglect.

"It was like they were locked up," Brown said.

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