Four arrested on child cruelty charges after 7 children found living in horrible conditions in Floyd County

According to a. Floyd County Police Department incident report, On January 19th, 2023, Officer Wade and Officer Walters got a notification from Model’s School social worker in regards to the children that live at 28 Hill Drive. The social worker informed officers that the children had feces on their feet, socks, and clothing, and they had a strong odor of urine protruding from them. Model SRO PFC Shelly confirmed that the children have received clothes from the school and have been asked to change them due to their strong odor. Officer Shelly informed other officers that there were seven school-aged children residing in the residence. Officer Walter’s then typed up a search warrant to check the welfare of the home in regard to the children and the multiple complaints over several months about the conditions they are living in. Investigator Webb, Officer Walters, and Officer Wade then went to the residence. According to Officer Walters, one of the kids advised that the family had eight dogs, six cats, five ducks, and two pigs, as well as several ferrets inside the house. They advised the animals to use the restroom inside and that they had to walk around the poop inside the home. Officer Wade reported, “Officer Walters then knocked and made contact with Tiffany Hope Fortenberry, 36, and Eric Robert Hardy, 38, both of Rome. PFC Walters began to explain that we got another complaint about her property and the condition of the children at school. Fortenberry then began to get very defensive and stated that we could contact her case worker before starting to yell and state that she was “going to sue” the school and police department for harassment. PFC Walters then asked if myself and her may enter the residence to take a look around. Fortenberry then stated “no” “unless we had a warrant,” and at that point [I] provided Fortenberry with her copy of the search warrant.” Officers reported that when Fortenberry opened the front door, the strong ammonia in the air instantly gave their eyes and nose a burning sensation and made them cough. Officers observed the house covered in feces and everything soaked in urine. Officers described in great detail the horrible conditions observed inside. Officers then learned that five kids were sleeping on one mattress, with was covered in feces and urine. Officer Walters reported, “At one point during the investigation, the odor was enough to overpower me, and [I] had to go outside where [I] became physically ill. The floors in every room had smears of animal feces and were slick to the touch. The floors were all the subflooring and were stained and decaying. The ceilings were covered in mold from a leak that was active in the wall where the roof connected.” The children’s bathroom had no running water, and the toilet was overflowing with human urine and feces. Officers located an orange bucket that had urine and feces, as if the children were using the bucket for bathroom purposes. The bathroom was also covered in spider webs and spiders. Floyd County building inspections stated that 27 Hill Drive was completely unlivable. Following the full investigation on the property, Katherine Louis Rymer, 59, Joseph Benjamin South III, 42, Hardy, and Fortenberry, all of Rome, were arrested and charged with cruelty to children in the 2nd degree x7 and contributing to the deprivation of a child resulting in serious injury or death x7.

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