WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) –
Deplorable. That’s how prosecutors described the conditions in the home in which a 9-year-old girl who died earlier this month lived with her guardian.
That guardian, Michelle Rothgeb, 55, was arraigned Monday on one charge of cruelty to, or neglect of a child, and ordered held on $25,000 bail with surety. Rothgeb did not enter a plea.
Warwick police said officers arrested Rothgeb at her Oakland Beach Avenue home Sunday morning.
The details from a Warwick Police arrest report obtained from Kent County Court are disturbing. Detective Patrick McGaffigan wrote the home was in squalid condition, with the stench of urine and feces throughout the home.
According to the report, Rothgeb was caring for eight special needs children she had adopted. She told detectives she had to be “hands off” with them because she was suffering from the flu and some of the kids had compromised immune systems.
On Jan. 3, the nine year old victim – who had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy – was placed into a bathtub at 8:30 a.m. by Rothgeb’s 15 year-old grandson after he found her crawling in the hallway covered in vomit. Rothgeb told police the 15 year old has Asperger’s syndrome.
After he cleaned her off, the grandson then put “2-3 inches of water in the bathtub to let her play which is something she typically did,” according to the police report. More than three hours later, the girl was given a “sippy cup” for nourishment.
At 4:30 p.m. that day – eight hours after being placed in the tub – police said the girl was found “lying face down naked” in the tub unresponsive, which was empty because water had slowly drained out. Doctors told police the girl’s body temperature was only 87.7 degrees when she arrived at the hospital.
Police said the girl’s bedroom was in “deplorable condition.”
“There was a pile of soiled diapers on the floor that had a stench of urine and feces,” McGaffigan wrote. “Detectives observed there to be bugs on the ceiling. The second bed had netting around it, and it ws soiled with what appeared to be animal droppings.”
The house was so jammed with refuse, the girl could not use her wheelchair so it “was stored in a van outside.”
“Due to the clutter of the home there was limited space to move about the home freely and there was trash all over the floor,” police wrote.
Police, the Department of Children, Youth and Families and the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office launched an investigation after the child’s death.
An email to a DCYF spokesperson has not been immediately returned.
At that time, Major Mark Ullucci told Eyewitness News police received a medical call to a home on Oakland Beach Avenue. The child – who Ullucci said had a medical condition – was taken to Kent Hospital but passed away.
On Monday Ullucci confirmed for Eyewitness News that there were other children in the home and they have since been removed.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Ullucci said. “There is a possibility that additional charges may come up as it progresses.”
Rothgeb was arraigned Monday at Kent County Court. A judge released her on $25,000 surety and ordered her to stay away from the children that were in her care.