FARMINGTON — Two Farmington parents are each charged with three counts of felony child abuse for keeping their home so filthy that simply living there put their children in danger, police said.
But the parents say police exaggerated the condition of their home, and they plan to clean it.
Rodney McKinney, 70, and Melody McKinney, 34, were charged after Farmington police Detective Lisa McGaha, a school resource officer investigating the living conditions of the couple's three children, visited the family's trailer on South Monterey Avenue on Dec. 13.
A Farmington school teacher alerted the detective when one of the couple's children showed up for school with dog feces on his clothes, according to McGaha's affidavit for the McKinneys' arrests.
McGaha wrote that dog feces, rotten food and trash were cluttered throughout the home, and it was unsafe for the couple's children, an 8-year-old boy and two girls, ages 11 and 13.
During her investigation into the home, McGaha twice wrote that she had to leave to get a breath of fresh air.
"The overwhelming smell in the residence was starting to make my throat burn and I was getting sick to my stomach," McGaha wrote. "I walked out of the residence and started dry heaving. I was trying not to throw up."
The home's water had been turned off, and the family was using buckets to relieve themselves, according to the affidavit. And a portable toilet was in the living room, it said.
The heat had been turned off, and the bedrooms were cold, according to police. Two windows were broken and had been replaced with plastic wrap in a back bedroom, which belonged to the boy. The bedrooms were full of trash, and the mattresses in them were rotten.
"We're trying to clean up. I know it was messy," Melody McKinney said at her home on Wednesday. "I don't mind the kids being out right now. We'll make it healthier."
Melody McKinney said Ideal Baptist Church members have helped her clean the home in recent weeks, and she hopes to have the water turned back on.
On Wednesday, the living room was relatively clean, except for a dirty fish aquarium and the portable toilet next to a recliner. There was a foul smell in the living room and bathroom.
The other rooms in the house were cluttered with clothes and trash, but the items were beginning to be organized into piles in some of the rooms. Dog feces was not visible in the home.
When the couple was arrested, Animal Control removed two puppies from the residence.
Rodney McKinney described the home as "junky" and said it wasn't as bad as the police report stated.
"It might be junky, but do it look nasty and filthy?" he said. "I wouldn't be living here if it was."
Rodney McKinney said he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which prevents him from doing much work around the house.
Police say the two McKinney girls told them the couple kept the boy locked up in his bedroom for days at a time. During the summer, Rodney McKinney allegedly locked his son in his room for one month after the child broke into a pantry for food, according to the affidavit.
Each of the McKinneys was charged with an additional count of child abuse for allegedly locking the boy in his room.
The children told police their parents watch television all day. One of Rodney McKinney's children said of their father that he "is so lazy that he uses the portable toilet next to his recliner because he does not want to walk to the bathroom," according to the affidavit.
The children's uncle, who has a speech disorder and mental disability, also lives in the home.
The McKinneys are charged with child abuse because the children were living in an unsafe home, said San Juan County Deputy District Attorney Ron Brambl.
Brambl said that to get a conviction on the child abuse charges, prosecutors will have to prove in court that the children were in danger by being in the home.
"We have to put on expert evidence to show that the house conditions endangered the children," he said. "There has to be a causal connection between the conditions and the actual endangerment to the children. It can't be theoretical harm. It has to be real harm."
The McKinneys are also charged with an additional count of child abuse for the allegation that the boy was locked in a bedroom for a month at the time, which was a cruel form of confinement, Brambl said.
Melody McKinney said it was Rodney McKinney's idea to lock their son in a room.
Rodney McKinney said the child wasn't confined for weeks at a time, and that the boy had severe behavioral issues, broke items and made messes throughout the house, which was the reason he was often disciplined.
"I love my boy, but he can be a terror," he said.
The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department has taken custody of the three children, who are currently staying at Child Haven, Brambl said.
Melody McKinney said she is hopeful she can clean her home to the point where her children can return.
"There's still work to be done," she said. "Hopefully, by the next court date the judge will let the kids come home on a temporary basis."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.