Woman pleads guilty to neglecting children

A 28-year-old Indian Hills woman, whose three young children were found living in squalor, was sentenced Wednesday to a suspended six-month sentence and ordered to undergo counseling and parenting classes.

Melissa Howell pleaded guilty to contributory child neglect, a misdemeanor.

Originally, she was charged with possession of credit cards without the cardholders' consent, a felony, and child endangerment, a gross misdemeanor.

An amended complaint was filed this week.

Howell was arrested Jan. 14 after officers found her passed out at 2:30 p.m. in a bedroom leaving her children ages 5, 2 and 1 unsupervised.

The residence, in the 3500 block of Vista Grande, was littered with dirty dishes, clothing, empty bottles of alcohol, and open beer cans.

Cigarette butts, feces, food and other debris covered the carpets throughout the residence, including the children's bedrooms.

The bathroom sink was clogged with water and feces, according to investigators. The bathtub was filled with clothes.

After deputies awoke Howell, she gave permission to search the residence and they found the credit cards under a mattress.

The children were placed in the care of Child Protective Services.

East Fork Justice Jim EnEarl placed Howell on probation for one year. She is forbidden to consume drugs or alcohol, must attend counseling and parenting classes and will be monitored by the Department of Adult Supervision.

She admitted to EnEarl that the underlying issues were alcohol and methamphetamine.

"How can you do this?" he asked.

Howell said she was working to regain custody of her children and would be moving into a residence her lawyer described as "an alcohol-free environment."

"My kids are all I have and all I want," Howell said. "There are no excuses or explanations for my behavior."

EnEarl warned Howell she would be jailed if she violates her probation.

"I'm not going to think your efforts are sincere if you violate these terms," he said. "It doesn't mean I wish you failure, I wish you success."

He gave her a month to find a full-time job.


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