(CNN) — Around midnight Thursday, deputies went to a house near San Antonio after somebody called to report hearing a child crying in a backyard, according to a Friday news release from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.
The deputies knocked on the front door, got no answer, and went around back, using a ladder to look over the fence, James Keith, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told CNN affiliate KABB.
They saw two toddlers in a state that Keith struggled to describe.
A 2-year-old boy was “chained to the ground as if he was a dog,” he said. “There was no slack in the chain. His pants were down. You could tell he’d been here for a while. And then a short distance away, a 3-year-old girl who was tied to a door with a dog leash who was just exhausted.”
The deputies moved quickly to release the two youngsters, but their work was not finished.
Inside the house, they discovered six children ranging in age from 10 months to 13 years, the release said. There were no adults on site to care for them.
“To describe this as disturbing is an understatement,” Keith said. “It makes you wonder what somebody’s thinking. How could they do this?”
Mother of six of the children charged
Early Friday morning, the parents of the six children who were inside returned to the house, the sheriff’s office said.
The mother, Porucha Phillips, 34 was believed to be responsible for caring for the two toddlers, authorities said. She was charged with injury to a child by omission with serious bodily injury and Injury to a child by omission with bodily injury and is being held in the Bexar County Jail.
Deputies haven’t said they’re searching for the parents of the toddlers found in the backyard.
Child Protective Services was called in. The toddlers were taken to the the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and are recovering, though the girl is in intensive care, Keith said.
CPS said one of them has a fractured right arm and wrist and the other has superficial injuries including abrasions and scarring, CNN affiliate KSAT reported. Six children have been cleared for foster care.
Child Protective Services said it had no prior involvement with the family, KSAT said. Authorities are investigating a report that a day care might have been operating out of the home, KSAT reported.
‘When we heard of it, it was bad’
Neighbors and authorities said they were horrified by the conditions the children were found in.
“When we heard of it, it was bad,” Christina Rivera, who lives nearby, told KSAT. “It was shocking. Especially something happening across the street and we didn’t even know about it or see it.”
Keith said he was glad somebody thought to call the sheriff’s office. He encouraged anybody who ever suspects child abuse to do the same.
“We are grateful that this person was brave enough to call us and that our deputies were able to respond when they did,” he said to KSAT. “I don’t even want to think about how this could have happened, how this could have played out, had our deputies not gotten there when they did.”