Three young children have been found abandoned, living in squalid conditions next to what's thought to be the decomposing remains of their sibling who had died weeks earlier.
Aged 7, 10 and 15, the unnamed youngsters were rescued at around 4.30pm on Sunday from an apartment near Addicks Clodine and Westpark Tollway in Houston, Texas.
Authorities visited the premises after the children responded to a request for a welfare check.
They were found in deplorable conditions with the body of a dead child out in the open. Rather than being locked up in the apartment, they had seemingly been abandoned by adults and were "fending for each other", according to police.
Sheriff Ed Gonzales said: "Very horrific situation here, very tragic. I've been in this business for a long time and I've never heard of a scenario like this, it really caught me by surprise.
"I think the oldest sibling was doing the best she could to take care of the others.
"Connecting all the dots, it seems they were in there while the body was deteriorating."
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An investigation has now been launched into both the death and how long the children had been living in such conditions.
Children Protective Services, Homicide investigators and Child Abuse investigators are all attempting to piece together the overall picture.
Sheriff Gonzales added: "We are trying to identify next of king to determine exactly what happened and how we got to this point.
"We're going to make sure we conduct a thorough follow-up investigation."
Police have said that, although the investigation is in the initial stages, it is likely that the children had been on their own for weeks.
The children themselves are now receiving professional support. One of them is thought to have injuries but police have said they will not disclosure the nature of the injuries at this time.
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