Crews cleaning Oswego squalor house

A view of the dumpster Friday morning / photo: Brian Erb

In a follow up to a story CNY Central has been covering for the past two months, work crews have begun cleaning out an Oswego apartment that was infested with garbage and insects and became the focus of an investigation into child endangerment.

Landlord Tom Kells tells our Jim Kenyon that the apartment had $16,000 in damage due to the living conditions of the couple who were evicted earlier this week from their home on East 7th Street.

Kells says crews are emptying the apartment of trash, appliances and carpeting. They are also disinfecting the entire living quarters.

"Insurance covers vandalism, but not dirtiness. The most important thing is the kids are out of that environment," Kells said.

A roll off dumpster outside the building is full of garbage, trash and other debris. The odor is wafting through the immediate neighborhood. Neighbor Jim Anderson told Kenyon, "Just to see what was going on now. It just amazes you. I just can't believe it." Anderson says the children from the home would often talk to him on his porch. "They never stunk and they were clean." but he added, "that house was not a home."

On April 1st Kells alerted Kenyon to the situation in the apartment in which Anthony Distefano and Christina Haskins were living with their five children. At the time Kells complained that the apartment was full of garbage, filth and bugs presented a danger to the children. Oswego Police and Child Protected Services decided to intervene , and the children were removed from the home.

Distefano and Haskins face three charges each of endangering the welfare of a child.

Speaking in defense of the couple, Heather Shell, Distefano's sister, says the couple has lost everything. "Everybody is putting my brother down but don't understand. The conditions in the apartment were not even close to Erin Maxwell," said Shell.

Maxwell was an 11-year-old girl who was killed by her stepbrother Alan Jones. During the investigation, State Troopers found dozens of animals, feces and piles of garbage in their Palermo home. Maxwell's parents were convicted on child endangerment charges.

Shell also does not believe the children were in danger. "If I felt my nephews or my niece were in danger, one of us as family members would have said something and I seen them love them babies. They took care of them. So they're not rich. You can't give everything, but you got love." Shell said.

Distefano and Haskins are due back in court on May 26th.