Carlton Hightower, 34, and Sharon Hightower, 33, were arrested Aug. 22 on two counts each of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Sharon Hightower was also charged with first-degree cruelty to children.
Sgt. Dana Pierce with Cobb Police said on Aug. 16 Carlton Hightower reportedly called 911 in reference to the couple’s newborn not breathing.
When paramedics and fire officials arrived at the couple’s home in the 2600 block of Beaver Creek Crossing in Powder Springs they also discovered that the two other children in the home, a 14-month-old and 9-year-old, were living in what authorities called “deplorable conditions.”
“Animal feces and urine was found throughout the home, roach infestation was present and rotting garbage was allowed to collect inside the home,” the warrant states. “No effort had been made to correct any of these issues.”
Police also found that the 14-month-old girl had “severe blistering and rashes” on her private areas “to the extent that the top layer of skin appeared to be gone,” the warrant states.
Her diaper was also filled with urine and feces and appeared to not have been changed in 24 hours.
Pierce said the newborn, whose age and sex were not released by police, did die. He did not have more information about the exact cause of death but said there will not be charges brought against the parents related to the newborn’s death.
The 14-month-old and 9-year-old children were taken into the custody of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, where Pierce said they remained as of Monday afternoon, and the parents were arrested.
Carlton Hightower was released Aug. 23 from the Cobb County jail on a $15,000 bond and Sharon Hightower was released the next day on a $20,000 bond.
Residents asked to report suspected neglect
Susan Boatwright with the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services could not speak to this specific case but did say that cases of child neglect are on the rise.
“We don’t track deplorable conditions as a sub-category because we include those in with neglect, but we are seeing at this time an increase in neglect cases,” she said Monday. “We do every year see an increase in our overall number of calls and reports because school has started back.”
Calls and reports increase when school begins because educators and school volunteers are required by law to report potential abuse within 24 hours or they could be arrested on misdemeanor failure to report charges.
Boatwright doesn’t believe this is a duty that should be left up to just school officials.
“If you see a child who might be a victim of neglect or abuse, report it,” she said.
She also asks anyone who does call in a report to give police or DFCS officials as much information as possible.
“That helps us make the best decision about what we should do or if we should send someone to a home to look into the matter,” she said.
Anyone with information about a potential case of child abuse or neglect is asked to call 1-855-GA-CHILD, the local DFCS office or 911. Residents may also visit dhs.georgia.gov for more information.