The mother of two children living in a squalid Buffalo home with 31 cats was arrested Friday morning and charged with two counts of child endangerment and another count of animal cruelty.
Susan Kile was arraigned on the misdemeanors and released on her own recognizance Friday afternoon -- the latest development in a case that has pitted human services personnel against law enforcement officials regarding the severity of the children's health and living conditions.
"Obviously, somebody isn't telling somebody the true set of facts," said District Attorney Frank Clark.
According to officials with the Buffalo Police, city animal control and housing inspection officers, Kile's Newton Street home was found last Friday littered with cat waste, reeking of urine and filled with garbage.
Police said the 11-year-old boy was reported by neighbors and his own 13-year-old sister to be a smoker who has been seen outside with an open beer. Both children were reported by police and animal control officials as underweight and infested with head lice.
Photos taken of the house by animal control and police personnel support many of their assertions regarding living conditions. They showed cat feces on the kitchen floor, tall piles of garbage in the upstairs rooms, scattered clothing and toiletries, mold in the refrigerator, large wall stains, squalid bathrooms and heavily soiled bed linens.
Futures Academy, the children's school, confirmed the boy had missed 83 days of school this school year, said police Lt. Gail Allen. The young sister had missed 46 days of school, 22 of which were "excused" because of a note from the mother.
Besides the two children, a 16-year-old daughter lives at the house and has missed 80 days of school, Allen added.
Both younger children had head lice and lacked clean underwear and clothing, police and city officials said. Their mother had been given a prescription from the school to treat the children's recurring condition, but it hadn't been refilled, Allen said.
County and school officials still maintain that "the system did not fail" this family.
Buffalo Public Schools spokesman Andrew Maddigan said all the proper truancy procedures were followed. Phone calls and letters were sent home, and an attempt at a home visit was made. The school system also contacted Social Services and filed court paperwork in March to try to get the children back in class.
Social Services Commissioner Michael Weiner said he was disappointed the police arrested Kile. He said he has seen little evidence to suggest the children were in poor health or living in extreme conditions.
On Monday, he held an emergency meeting with a Child Protection Services worker and members of St. Augustine's Center -- the agency primarily responsible for following up with this family for the past few months.
Both contradicted claims by city and police personnel, he said. Photos taken by agency officials, presumably St. Augustine's, also do not suggest the house is anything other than messy, Weiner said.
A medical evaluation of the children, conducted this week, also showed they were not malnourished nor did they have head lice. The kitchen pantry also had food, Weiner said. "There seems to be lot of discrepancy between what was reported to the media and presented publicly, and what we're actually finding."
Allen responded, "I know what I saw. I know what I smelled."
The children were cleaned up and treated for lice soon after they were found, she added.
Lynette Reda, the Buffalo City Court bureau chief for the district attorney's office, said Clark's office did not initially plan to prosecute this case because of an eyewitness account by Anthony R. Noble, senior Child Protection Services worker.
Reda said Noble told her and other members of her office that the house had "no garbage, no feces, the refrigerator is fine and the floors are clean." He also told her that there were "no signs of cats" in the house, she said, despite photos showing filled litter boxes and feces on the floors. Noble could not be reached to comment.
"It's amazing to me that CPS could be involved in this and say this is acceptable," Reda said.
The children's father, William R. Kile, is in jail, police said. He has been arrested seven times for driving while intoxicated and was arrested again in July 2003 for supplying beer to 15-year-olds in the park.
Susan Kile was described by city housing officials as a single, working mother who was overwhelmed by her situation.
Officials said the two younger children were back in school this week and a Social Services plan has been drawn up to better support the family.