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Children In Squalid Berwyn Home May Never Have Had Medical Care

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More than 100 cats had to be put down after they were found in squalid conditions in a home in Berwyn. A teenage boy was also found dead at the home. (Photo credit: Animal Welfare League)

More than 100 cats had to be put down after they were found in squalid conditions in a home in Berwyn. A teenage boy was also found dead at the home. (Photo credit: Animal Welfare League)

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UPDATED 09/13/11 11:15 a.m.

BERWYN, Ill. (CBS) — A disabled boy who died in a squalid Berwyn home and his siblings had never had any medical care in most of their lives, a police report says.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, Lydia Price, 49, was charged Monday with two felony counts of criminal abuse and neglect of a disabled person and three misdemeanor counts of endangering the health of a child, following the death last week of her son, Matthew Degner, 14.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

Degner was pronounced dead at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn this past Thursday afternoon after he was found dead in the back yard at 2834 Lombard Av. He was lying outside, wearing only a T-shirt

The family’s home was filled with sick animals and was described by a shelter director as a “hell hole.” Five children between the ages of 12 and 18, including Degner, were living in the house with their mother.

The children were all home-schooled, and a Berwyn police report says, “None have had any medical care for most of their lifetime.”

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Kendall Marlowe told CBS 2 there is a possibility that the children never received any education or professional medical care at all.

About 200 animals were found living inside the home amid squalid conditions. The report says “the overpowering stench of animal feces” greeted authorities as they arrived, and the kitchen sink was “blocked by animal cages.”

At least one Cockatiel — one of 74 birds found inside — was missing virtually all the feathers on its back. Its spine was visible from malnutrition. Four rabbits, a guinea pig and two dogs were encrusted with feces.

One hundred and nine cats found in the house had to be put down. The cats had never been socialized and attacked investigators when they arrived.

The cats also had feline AIDS and leukemia, said Linda Estrada, president and director of the Animal Welfare League.

A raccoon and several rare kinkajous — nocturnal rainforest mammals found in South America also known as honey bears — were also found in the home.

Furthermore, the ceiling of at least one room “completely covered with a network of intricate insect webbing,” reads the police report.

The report says a friend would take the family shopping to pay for groceries and pet food – $705 every two weeks, and that $287 of that – or 40 percent – went for pet food.

Estrada said her investigators told her it’s one of the worst cases they’ve ever seen. “And they’ve been doing it for a while,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the three surviving children were in protective DCFS custody, receiving medical care and therapy, Marlowe said. The 18-year-old is being served by the adult system, he said.

The 18-year-old was also hospitalized for an undisclosed illness.

All of the surviving animals are up for adoption at the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge.

Marlowe said he is puzzled how a family living in the metro Chicago area could be so isolated from the world in 2011.

But Berwyn police told CBS 2 that officers had no contact with the home in the past four years, and neighbors never called them.

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