Boy Who Died Lived In Squalid Home With More Than 100 animals

BERWYN, Ill. (STMW) — The death of a 14-year-old suburban boy discovered living in squalid conditions Thursday afternoon has prompted state officials to warn about the dangers of “social isolation” and a lack of community response.

The teen’s mother is being investigated by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and three of his siblings were removed from the home, authorities said.

Matthew Degner of 2834 Lombard Ave. in Berwyn was pronounced dead at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn at 4:39 p.m. Thursday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

An autopsy Friday determined Degner died of bronchopneumonia and his death was ruled natural, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Authorities on Thursday found dozens of animals, including 40 cats, 24 birds and at least one squirrel inside the home, which also had a bug infestation. Feces were found in the home and it had no running water, according to a source.

“Our animal control unit was called out to assist Thursday and Friday,’’ said Steve Patterson, spokesman for Cook County Sheriff’s office.

Since Berwyn does not have an animal crimes unit, they requested county assistance, he said.

“They encountered more than 100 animals in the home,’’ said Patterson. “Our animal control officers who have been in some pretty horrific and disgusting environments said this home was easily the worst they’ve been in.’’

Patterson did not know whether Berwyn authorities had filed charges. The police chief was on the scene Friday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said the agency is investigating allegations of neglect against Degner’s mother, although DCFS had no previous contact with the family. Three minor siblings between the ages of 12 and 17 were removed from the home. Upon their release from a hospital, they are now receiving medical care and therapy, Marlowe said.

Marlowe said the case is a stark reminder of the dangers of social isolation.

“Social isolation is one of the most powerful risk factors for serious harm to children,” Marlowe said. “If we as a community never knock on that door that no one ever seems to open, we may never know how bad it is or how we can help.”

 (Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • JeanSC

    I would not call bronchopneumonia in a 14-year-old a “natural” cause of death. With all those animals and squalor, the atmosphere in that house must have contained many hazardous compounds of many kinds. He also must not have gotten adequate medical care. This is a case of child endangerment and neglect causing his death.

    • Roberta Waker

      Where were his teachers and neighbors? SOMEONE should have known there was a problem if they didn’t see the boy and knew he and other siblings lived there. There must have been a stench coming from the house if things were that bad too. You could be living next to a meth lab that could blow you up so you had better pay more attention to what’s going on in your block.

  • malcom

    what is it with white people and animals???



    • Roberta Waker

      You’re right. What is it with black people and dogfighting? Also, there’s bullfighting by the Mexicans, who also trip horses for fun, often causing them harm, and those who are guilty of bludgeoning innocent baby seals to death. Need I say more? NO race is free of problems with abusing, torturing, killing animals and ALL should be punished severely, so don’t pick on one race; ALL are guilty of some kind of animal abuse.

      • malcom

        we aren’t living with dogs and al lthe waste they produce. and Making money from them isn’t so bad. look at all those white scientist who use anmals to test products. not to mention you probably own wool clothes and leather shoes. Nice try devils.

    • vick

      You Should,and you’ll stay alive.

  • Berwyn Resident

    The comments on this issue is strictly off base! The kid is dead. have some mercy.

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