PITTSBURGH — A father and his Fiance are locked up at the Allegheny County Jail after what investigators call “one of the worst child abuse cases they’ve ever seen.”
Two children were found handcuffed inside a man’s car outside Francis McClure Elementary School in White Oak after another child refused to get into the vehicle.
Investigators were called Wednesday at about 1:30 p.m. to the school on Longvue Drive. An 11-year-old boy refused to get in the car after being dismissed from school.
School officials looking inside the father’s vehicle found a 7- and 10-year-old child handcuffed in the back seat. The 11- and 10-year-old are Hayes’ children. The 7-year-old is not related to him or Bell, but is a sibling of one of the other children.
A man and woman were in the vehicle: Richard Hayes, 37, of Mt. Oliver, and his girlfriend; Natosha Bell, 26, of Rankin. Hayes was found in possession of a loaded handgun.
Police interviewed the three children, who said they were physically abused by Hayes and Bell. Detectives found “corroborating evidence” at Hayes’ home in Mt. Oliver.
The children detailed that they would be locked behind a coal cellar door below the porch of the home for days with no lights or running water, and were sleeping on concrete floors. They said that the cellar was called “the hole,” and that there was another room in the basement that was called “the cell.”
Investigators said that the children were locked inside with a deadbolt, where there was a bucket for a toilet, no lights, no water, no pillows and no mattress.
The children also told investigators that their father and his fiance would submerge one of the children underwater while the child struggled and kicked.
Neighbors said that they were sickened.
“Help is out there, but it’s hard to get when you’re a child. You don’t know who to turn to. Who’s going to help you?,” explained neighbor George Faloney.
The Moon Area School District released the following statement on the matter:
“Thanks to the swift action of our Administrators and School Police Officers, we were able to notify the White Oak Police and set in motion the investigation into the alleged abuse and ensure these children’s safety.”
One family said that they could hear the children inside the home screaming when they were beaten. Another family said that they only saw the kids when they were running laps as punishment. However, no one ever called the police.
Hayes has been denied bail, due to him being considered a “danger to children.”
In a criminal complaint, it details that the children were forced to sleep in basement rooms, locked in “the hole” for days at a time.
Another basement room was called “The Cell” they told police, which was a room with a deadbolt on the outside, no bedding or running water. There was a makeshift toilet in the form of a bucket, according to a criminal complaint.
Both Hayes and Bell confirmed some of those details to police, when they were questioned.
They were arrested and charged with multiple felonies, including aggravated assault, false imprisonment and endangering the welfare of children and were taken to the Allegheny County Jail.
A judge denied bail for Hayes Thursday.
School officials sent a statement to Channel 11:
“Yesterday, we were made aware of a situation that occurred during dismissal, at Francis McClure Elementary School. Thanks to the swift action of our Administrators and School Police Officers, we were able to notify the White Oak Police and set in motion the investigation into the alleged abuse and ensure these children’s safety.
“Schools are vitally important as it pertains to child welfare. Since the beginning of the school year, we have had students in our buildings, five days a week. By keeping our doors open, it enabled us to better follow our mandatory reporting obligations and create a safe space for students to report what they might be experiencing outside of our buildings.
“We will continue to work collaboratively with the investigating agencies throughout this process as the safety of our students is our top priority.”