Helen Gann admits her two-bedroom Fairpark apartment was a mess Friday night.
Dirty clothes had piled up on her living room couch and floor, children's toys were scattered about and there were dishes in the sink."It was bad," Gann said Tuesday morning sitting in her apartment amid plastic garbage sacks of now clean laundry with the sound of the clothes dryer running in the back-ground.
She also admits to leaving her four children alone with a 12-year-old baby sitter while she went out dancing with friends.
But she doesn't think that what she has done is a crime. Police, however, do.
Officers discovered her four children home alone at 10 p.m. Friday. The apartment was unlocked and roach-infested, said Salt Lake Police Lt. Phil Kirk.
The Division of Child and Family Services placed the four children, which include twin 19-month-old girls, an 8-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, into protective custody. The children have been placed in separate foster homes, Gann said.
A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
"The house was not only a mess but was unsafe for living," Kirk said. "There was roach poison sitting on the counter with some food. Without any supervision, the kids could confuse the poison for food."
The lock on the apartment's door was missing. The door had a large hole where the lock was supposed to be. Cockroaches were literally crawling the walls. The apartment had hardly any food. One of the twins was eating a rotten apple, Kirk said.
That's not entirely true, according to Gann. There is a lock on the door handle, but there is a hole in the door where the deadbolt used to be. That fell out a few weeks ago, she said. But with a six-day-a-week job at a local food-processing company, she hadn't had time to replace it.
There was food in both the refrigerator and the freezer, Gann said. The apple her daughter was eating had been given to her by a neighbor. And another neighbor knew she was out for the evening and that the four children had older friends in the home who were baby-sitting, she said.
One of the twins was asleep when she left the home Friday night. The other children were lined up on the living room floor playing video games.
"They're making me out to be someone who doesn't care about her kids. That's just not true," Gann said, breaking into tears. "I've gone through hell getting those kids to a safe place."
Police said Gann returned home about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. That's when she called police wondering where her children were, Kirk said.
A parent whose son is friends with the children called police when she saw the conditions Friday night, Kirk said. She was looking for her son at the Fairpark apartment, when she found the kids alone.
The children told police that their father is in prison in California, Kirk said.
Kirk said the older boys were not at the home as baby sitters; and, in fact, neither of the boys' parents knew they were at the house. When the parents were told, they were upset with the boys and came and picked them up from the house, he said.
Gann, 30, has not been arrested. Detectives are investigating to see if the treatment of the children warrants child-neglect charges.
Monday, representatives from the division, attorney general's office and guardian ad litem program met to discuss the direction of the case, said Abel Ortiz, regional director for Child and Family Services.
"We have (decided what to do), but I cannot tell you the direction we've gone as that's confidential," Ortiz said. "The division has prepared a petition."
That petition will be presented to a juvenile court judge at a shelter hearing which has yet to be set. The state has 72 hours to hold that hearing, he said.
A judge can do any number of things from taking the children permanently to returning them immediately. Within five days of being taken into state custody, all of the children will have medical, dental and mental-health check-ups, he said.
Gann said she and her children have had contact with social workers before.
Apartment manager Kenneth Younce said that for the most part, Gann has been a good tenant during the two years she's lived in the brick four-plex.
"I've told her before about not leaving her kids alone and she's been pretty good about making sure there's a baby sitter," he said through the screen door of his apartment above Gann's. "I've got no other problems with her as a tenant."
Younce said the cockroach problem within the building is a legacy left from a previous tenant who left the apartment "such a mess, you couldn't get rid of them." He has been planning to get the entire building fumigated for sometime, he said.