Documents say girls were confined to Indiana home, uneducated for years

Police arrested a woman they say kept her children confined to her home, failing to educate or, at times, feed them

DECATUR, IN (WANE) — Police arrested a woman who they say kept her children confined to her Decatur home for years, failing to educate them or, at times, feed them.

Mary Heller was charged with felony neglect after authorities found two teenage girls in a home in the 1000 block of Twin Lakes Drive in deplorable conditions.

The investigation began in January, when a Decatur Police detective received a report of possible neglect of two teenage girls who did not have food in their home. A woman told police that the girls’ cousin had asked her and another woman to check on the girls.

When the women went to the home, they said they found the windows covered in white butcher paper and one of the girls answered the door and appeared “very skinny, having a pale looking complexion, greasy long black hair, and her lips were dry and cracked,” according to the affidavit. The home had a “foul, strong odor,” and was unkempt, the woman recalled in the affidavit.

The women took the girls to eat at an area McDonalds, the affidavit said. At the fast food restaurant, the woman recalled the girls “had no clue as to how to order or what they wanted,” and had no social skills, the affidavit said. She said the girls indicated they do not eat very much, the affidavit said.

After eating, the women took the girls to a Walmart to buy basic foods. There, one of the girls said, “I always dreamed of this, going to the store,” according to the affidavit.

The next day, medics were called to the home after Heller called 911 and said was she unable to get up from the bathroom floor for “approximately twenty hours.” At the home, medics reported the home smelled like “rotting flesh,” and was cluttered with boxes, the affidavit said.

One of the girls appeared “skinny and dirty looking,” a medic recalled in the affidavit. She refused to accompany Heller to the hospital, with the other daughter staying at a friend’s home, the affidavit said.

Police served a search warrant later. In the home, a detective learned the older girl was from China and the younger girl was from Mongolia, the affidavit said. The girls told police they only go outside to get the newspaper and mail.

In the home, police found clumps of black hair on the carpet in most rooms of the two-story home, “brown colored smelly stains” on carpets, a clogged toilet and a broken refrigerator, according to the affidavit.

The detective noted in the affidavit that he found it odd that during the investigation, the girls never asked about their mother in the hospital.

The girls were placed into the custody of Child Protective Services.

Police interviewed Heller at a Fort Wayne hospital. There, Heller apologized for the condition of her home, and said she was too ill to clean, according to the affidavit. She admitted to not having food for her daughters.

Heller denied confining her daughters to her home, and said she removed them from public school to home school them because they were shy, according to the affidavit.

In an interview with a child services case worker, one of the girls, who was 15 at the time, said the after Heller pulled her and her 19-year-old sister out of school in preschool, Heller taught them numbers and the ABCs but “gave up homeschooling them,” according to the affidavit. The girl said Heller “gave up on us a long time ago,” the affidavit said.

The girl said that prior to a Department of Child Services visit a year ago, Heller “coached them on what to say” to the case worker, according to the affidavit.

In a follow-up interview with police at the hospital, Heller said she pulled the girls out of school in 2nd grade, and said “they need help” with education.

The girls were enrolled at Belmont Middle School after the investigation. Teachers told police that at the end of the school year, the 15-year-old girl “lacked the basic concept about school,” could only do single-digit math, and was functioning behind her special needs students.

Neighbors said they were concerned about the girls’ well-being for years. Several neighbors told NBC4’s sister station WANE that they made multiple calls to Indiana Department or Child Services and Decatur Police Department.

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