Oswego couple charged after home found in 'deplorable' conditions

26 East 7th Street, Oswego

/ file photo

A shocking situation exposed by CNY Central on April 1st has now resulted in child endangerment charges against two Oswego parents accused of forcing their children to live in filth.

O n April 8th, Oswego police answered a domestic violence call at an apartment on East 7th Street. The living conditions they saw caused them to call in Child Protective Services to place five young children with relatives. On Wednesday Oswego police revealed the parents, Anthony Distefano and Christina Haskins, face three counts each of endangering the welfare of a child.

According to Captain Michael Beckwith, "they found the living conditions to be deplorable and not at all sufficient to provide a safe clean environment for children to live there. "

C aptain Beckwith says the officers found:

- Filthy floors- C arpets matted with weeks of spilled food and drinks- F lies and bugs- S oiled diapers throughout including one in a crib infested with flies- A toilet so filthy it was black- A hatchet and razor blades within reach of the children - A closet packed with rotting garbage bags.

Dis tefano was additionally charged with possessing a hypodermic needle and marijuana paraph r enalia.

Though five children lived in the apartment, the couple is charged with three counts each of child endangerment because only three of the children were home at the time police answered the domestic violence call.

Beckwith said, "It's a very significant thing to remove somebody's children from their home and we don't do that unless it's absolutely necessary and I think the conditions in this case very much warrant it. I think the officers did the right thing."

CNY Central's Jim Kenyon first exposed th e problem on April 1st, after the landlord, Tom Kells complained the children were forced to live in an apartment was full of garbage, filth and bugs. The following week a former landlord of Distefano and Haskins came forward. Leonard Gibeau displayed photographs of the garbage, trash and filth he says they left behind when he evicted the couple two years ago. Gibeau is glad to hear Oswego Police have charged the parents. "Parents should not let their children live like this. If that is the case then why did they have children then." he said.

Landlord Tom Kells said, "the big thing is the kids are in a safe spot now." He added, "it's not something I took any pleasure in doing, somebody had to do something."

When contacted, Anthony Distefano said he expected the charges but denied endangering the children.

At last report, Christina Haskins had not been located to be formally charged. Beckwith says she too will be issued an appearance ticket to show up in Oswego City Court on April 22nd.

The story reminded many people in Oswego County of the August 2008 death of Erin Maxwell, who was murdered by her brother after being forced to live in a Palermo home full of animals, feces and garbage. The death prompted Oswego County to change the way it handles allegations of child abuse and neglect.

Captain Beckwith said of Wednesday's charges, "this is an example of the system working and the programs in place to protect children, working as they're supposed to work."

Original story from Wednesday morning:

CNY Central has learned that the father who was at the center of an expose on deplorable living conditions in an Oswego apartment has been arrested.

Oswego Police Captain Michael Beckwith says Anthony Distefano is charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child as well as possession of a hypodermic needle and marijuana.

The mother, 27-year-old Christina Haskins, hasn't been found. She disappeared last October when she was 9 months pregnant and was eventually found safe.

Police were originally called to the apartment at 26 East 7th Street on April 6, to respond to a report of a domestic dispute between the parents. This report brought action from the Oswego County Department of Child Protective Services, who removed five children from the premises. The father of the children told CNY Central at the time that that the kids were not taken out of the home due to the living conditions, but he refused to explain why they were removed.

We're told today's charges are related to the conditions the children were found living in.

Capt. Beckwith says his officers described the conditions inside the house as deplorable and filthy. He says police officers found piles of rotting garbage, flies, other bugs and dangerous objects like razor blades in an area where children could easily access them. Investigators also found piles of soiled diapers that were several days, possibly even weeks old.

Distefano was issued an appearance ticket and is scheduled to appear in court on May 12th.

Stay with and CNY Central on Twitter for more on this story as it develops.