Parents face abuse charges

Two city parents have been charged with felony child abuse and felony reckless endangerment following an investigation that began with a discovery of frostbite on their childrens’ toes by Manassas school authorities Dec. 9, Sgt. Marc Woolverton, Manassas police spokesman said on Thursday.

Leon P. and Kimberly K. Crawford, 35 and 30 respectively, of 9005 Bonham Circle were arrested and charged by city police Tuesday.

The 11-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister were living in a townhouse with no windows and minimal heat, according to the criminal complaint against the Crawfords filed in Prince William Circuit Court. The children had no beds and were forced to sleep with only a blanket on a wooden floor and “no amenities,” the complaint states.

Manassas’ Department of Social Services had received several complaints from school officials about the childrens’ living conditions since December 2001.

“Department of Social Services had been notified on numerous occasions [by school authorities] of issues involving the children,” Woolverton said. “This is the first time we [police] had been involved to a degree where criminal charges needed to be placed.”

Police were called to the home in March 2002 for a noise complaint made by neighbors, but found no evidence to warrant making an arrest or continuing investigation, Woolverton said. Police did, however, refer the case to Social Services for investigation because of concerns over the children’s welfare.

They never heard anything further.

“What actions, if any, Social Services have taken, they aren’t telling us,” Woolverton said.

Manassas Department of Social Service authorities could not be immediately reached Thursday. Neither Mayor Marvin L. Gillum nor City Manager Larry Hughes could not be reached Thursday evening either.

“It’s one of the worst cases of child abuse that we’ve ever seen,” Woolverton said.

The two children were placed in foster care Dec. 9. Their siblings, a 1-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy remained with their parents until the arrests, but are now in foster care, Woolverton said.

Because Social Services could not be reached Thursday, it was unclear why the other children were allowed to remain with their parents.

The investigation began when a Grace E. Metz Middle School employee noticed that the children were limping. The school’s nurse and resource officer were both notified of the injuries.

“Upon examination by school officials, it was felt that the children were suffering from apparent frostbite to their feet,” Woolverton said in a news release. “The children were transported to Prince William Hospital for examination and treatment.”

Doctors at the hospital confirmed that the children were indeed suffering from frostbite, although the boy’s injuries were more severe than the girl’s, Woolverton said. They were later transferred to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The front of the boy’s toe is black. A doctor referred to it as “dead flesh,” and “a profound injury,” Woolverton said. He is now at a rehabilitation facility for treatment of his injuries; his sister was released into foster care.

“We are still investigating the circumstances that led to these injuries,” Woolverton said.

Authorities are still not sure what the physical cause of the frostbite injuries was, but the 11-year-old boy told police it was because his room had a broken window and no heat, Woolverton said.

The children’s bedroom window is broken out and covered only by a small wooden plank.

The Crawfords’ children were talkative in school and on the way home, but when they reached their street they would hang their heads and be absolutely quiet, said next-door neighbor Tom Frasure, 33, whose children were friendly with them in school. The Crawfords would stand by the door waiting and watched them walk down the street every day, Frasure said. They were not allowed to speak to anyone, he said.

Frasure and other neighbors found new beds, clothes and books — most with tags still on them — that had been thrown in the garbage, he said. They believe those were items donated by the schools and disregarded by the couple.

The couple had a large piece of paper on their front door with a cross on it, said neighbor Johnni Portillo, 24. Before Leon Crawford would go in the house, he would lean over and pray in front of it, Portillo said.

School staff have stopped by Frasure’s home asking when the Crawfords come and go, because they would not answer the door when knocked on.

Neighbors would frequently hear shouting and loud voices coming from the apartment.

“The kids, when they were in their room would yell out the window to the kids on the playground, saying things like ‘I know you from school,’ ” Frasure said. “And then you could hear them get in trouble for it.”

“When they hollered out the window, you could hear the room echoing,” Frasure said, describing the sound as creepy. “There was nothing in it.”

The Crawfords are being held at the Prince William/Manassas Regional Jail on a $10,000 bond and are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 19.

Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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