FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) ─ Flowers have been placed outside what neighbors are calling a “House of Horror” in Fall River, where prosecutors say a 14-year-old handicapped boy died from severe neglect.
Police responded to the Green Street apartment last week. An officer who responded to the scene testified in court Thursday saying the boy, identified as David Almond, was not breathing, covered in his own vomit and weighed only 85 pounds.
Both John Michael Almond and his girlfriend, Jaclyn Marie Coleman, 26, were taken into custody last week and charged with caretaker neglect of a disabled person and possession of a Class A drug.
Police said Coleman was performing CPR on David when officers arrived. David was rushed to Charlton Memorial Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
The officer testified that six people lived in the one-bedroom apartment, including David and his twin brother Michael.
He said David’s twin brother Michael, who is also intellectually disabled, was found severely malnourished and remains hospitalized.
The officer testified that police found more than 1,000 bags of heroin and fentanyl while searching the apartment, and Michael ultimately tested positive for fentanyl.
Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan tells 12 News he’s disgusted by the ordeal, adding that David’s death, “broke the heart of the whole city.”
“I haven’t heard of anything like that as long as I’ve been in Fall River,” he said. “That’s beyond neglect, and that’s beyond drug charges.”
Coogan said Michael is slowly recovering, but “he’s going to need long-term care.”
“The trauma of what he’s been through in that house would haunt any of us for the rest of our lives,” he said. “This was a string of horrible consequences that rolled together to doom these kids.”
The twins returned home in March from a school for autistic children and were said to be in good health at the time.
Coogan said he spoke with members of David and Michael’s family, who told him the boys went to live with John because he was ready to be a father.
“There’s a strong need to reunite families, but they reunited these kids with the wrong family,” he said.
Coogan said there will be thorough investigation into how and why this happened.
“I don’t think the fault lies with one organization, this was a snowball rolling which doomed these kids,” Coogan said.
Both Michael and a third child that lived in the apartment are in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).
In a statement to 12 News, DCF said, “we are going to get to the bottom of this, we’re going to chase it wherever it goes and whatever comes out of it, the public should know it’s going to improve the way we do things. If there is something we missed or something we should have been doing better, that’s going to be our goal, to make it better.”
Both John and Coleman will remain behind bars as they await trial.