The parents of a 2-month-old infant have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in his death and the conditions in which they kept their other children — conditions that law enforcement officials described as “deplorable” and “absolutely horrific.”
Amy and Timothy Elkins Jr., both age 36, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the death of their infant son, Matthew. The baby was not breathing when paramedics arrived at the Elkins home at 406 N. Main St. in New Douglas early Tuesday morning. The paramedics provided CPR and transported him to Staunton Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Madison County Sheriff John Lakin said Matthew slept in an infant car seat that appeared to have been a free gift given out at hospitals when parents do not have a baby seat at the time that they leave.
But the entire family slept on one mattress in the living room, Lakin said: the two parents and seven other children ranging in age from 4 to 15. The Elkins had another child who is currently living with another family member.
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Trash was piled almost to the ceiling in some rooms, with feces strewn around the house and a dead animal in the front yard, according to police. Lakin said some of their most seasoned officers had to step out of the house sick to their stomachs after seeing what he called “absolutely horrific” conditions.
“Even some of the most seasoned officers, who have been around a long time, were appalled by the deplorable conditions this family was living in,” Lakin said. “When our folks went in, a couple of them became physically ill from the stench and the things going on in that home ... I’ve been doing this job for a good number of years, and I have seen living conditions that families and children are subjected to. I have never seen living conditions like this in any case I’ve been associated with.”
I have never seen living conditions like this in any case I’ve been associated with.
Madison County Sheriff John Lakin
At some point, Lakin said, due to the crowded conditions in the room, someone bumped into Matthew’s baby seat and it flipped over. At this time, Lakin said, they believe Matthew died of positional asphyxiation — essentially suffocation due to being trapped under the car seat.
The autopsy is under the jurisdiction of the Macoupin County Coroner’s Office, as the hospital where he died was over the county line. The final report is pending.
Lakin said they found gaping holes in the walls with exposed wiring, trash and clutter throughout the residence and outside, where a dead animal was rotting in the yard. “We’ve dealt with situations where homes were deplorable,” Lakin said. “This is absolutely the worst that we’ve ever seen.”
Lakin was joined by Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons and Lt. Carol Presson, who investigates crimes against children for the sheriff’s department. Gibbons said it was unusual to be able to press an involuntary manslaughter charge for a death like Matthew’s, but the “absolutely horrific conditions present in the home” allowed the charge.
Each parent faces one charge of involuntary manslaughter, a Class 2 felony; one charge of felony child endangerment; and nine counts of misdemeanor child endangerment. If convicted, each would face up to 14 years in prison, Gibbons said.
The house has been boarded up by officials with the New Douglas building and zoning administration, pending formal condemnation. Police declined to release the photos of the scene and interiors of the house, pending further investigation.
Presson said as far as she knows, there are no living photos of Matthew.
The Elkinses had nine children. Besides Matthew, seven were present in the home; the eighth was staying with another family member. Gibbons said they have all been taken into protective custody by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and their health needs are being addressed. Without going into detail, Gibbons said all the children have some health issues that will have to be treated, and may need psychological help as well.
“We know that the children are in the care of a family member who hopefully will look out better for them than the parents did,” Lakin said. “This is a horrific thing for those children to wake up and find their newborn brother deceased.”
The family had been getting some help and people had reached out in the past, Lakin said. School officials had reached out to offer assistance to the family, and Presson said that DCFS has been in contact with them in the past. The last time DCFS conducted a home visit was in 2015, she said; none of the present conditions were observed at that time.
Timothy and Amy Elkins are currently in custody at the Madison County Jail in lieu of $125,000 bail each.