Editor's note: This story contains explicit information of a graphic nature.
A Burnsville couple faces charges of child neglect after police found their developmentally delayed 7-year-old son locked in a filthy room, covered with sores and wearing a diaper filled with his own waste, according to papers filed in Dakota County.
Delilah Worcester, 31, and Andrew Worcester, 31, of 1186 McAndrews Road, are accused of neglecting their son and regularly feeding him unnecessary laxatives. The child – who was locked in the barricaded room daily and once for as long as three days – was also ignored while he screamed and slammed his head against his bedroom floor, according to the charges.
Authorities said that while social services customarily handles such cases, they considered the Worcester case serious enough to warrant charges.
Burnsville police executed a search warrant in late January at the Worcester home after receiving a tip from a witness. Police said the house was filthy, with a dozen pets running between stacks of garbage. The family’s belongings were stacked throughout the house, which reeked of urine, they said.
In fact, according to court documents, the urine smell was so pervasive that officers periodically had to run outside during their search to breathe fresh air.
Behind a locked door, barricaded with a couch, they found the Worcesters’ 7-year-old son. The child is described in court documents as unable to speak and with multiple medical problems.
Court documents say that Delilah Worcester has claimed that the child suffers from chronic and severe constipation, “causing him to act out” and prompting her to regularly administer laxatives – although earlier assessments by physicians indicated no such medical problem.
The walls, windows and floor of the boy’s room were smeared with feces, and a tarp on the floor was covered with food, police said. They said Delilah Worcester told them that the boy had been locked in the room since the previous night.
Although social workers had long suspected problems in the Worcester home, an earlier case against the couple was closed last spring after Delilah Worcester failed to show up for a meeting with them.
A witness who earlier spent two months living with the Worcesters told authorities that the boy seldom wore clothes, and his bedroom was kept much colder than the rest of the house. The witness is not named in court documents.
In mid-January, child protection workers contacted Burnsville police about the family and provided a March 2010 assessment, including a Mayo Clinic physician’s report of medical neglect by Delilah Worcester. The doctor accused her of withholding her son’s medication.
“Despite the fact that a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist have both stated that the child does not need surgery and does not need any further laxatives, the mother is still seeking out someone to perform surgery on him, and in the interim, is [administering] a great deal of laxatives,” a child protection petition filed in Dakota County says.
Police took the boy and his siblings, ages 11, 7, 4 and 2, into protective custody. Delilah Worcester and her husband, Andrew – who is also developmentally disabled – are charged with gross-misdemeanor neglect and have been evicted from their townhome, effective April 4.
Delilah Worcester was arrested and released from the Dakota County Jail in Hastings after a February court hearing. If they are convicted of child neglect, the Worcesters each face a maximum penalty of a year behind bars.