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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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