The mother of an emaciated special-needs boy found on a cot crawling with roaches wrote a letter this month to the judge in her case asking to be part of a drug treatment program and to be given mercy, saying her two children need her.
Rose Holland, 49, was arrested July 8 on drug and child cruelty counts after a Baton Rouge police officer happened to check inside a residence at 1762 N. 46th St. and found a 47-pound, “extremely malnourished” boy, then 15, apparently having a seizure while “stuck to the cot from his feces and urine,” according to a police report filed at the time of the incident.
The officer showed up at the house because of a noise complaint and investigated further after finding Holland and another woman, Cathy Fort, 55, in a car with a glass pipe and crack cocaine paraphernalia.
“I am asking for the court to have mercy on me and allow me to go into intensive outpatient drug treatment or drug court 18 months program. I am 50 years old and I have never been in trouble with the law,” Holland wrote in a Jan. 11 handwritten message to 19th Judicial District Judge Anthony Marabella.
“I have a 16-year-old and 17-year-old that really need me, because I am a single parent. I am not a threat, neither am I a flight risk,” she wrote. “I would like the opportunity to get the help I need.”
Court documents indicate Holland is 49 and will turn 50 in February.
In August, Holland and Fort were charged with cocaine possession, and Holland was additionally charged with second-degree cruelty to juveniles. East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks, whose agency oversees the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, said Holland is enrolled in a drug treatment program at the jail.
Holland’s case reinvigorated complaints last year about the apparent failures and secrecy of the state Department of Children and Family Services, an agency that often declines to speak about specific cases involving children by citing state confidentiality laws.
After state Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, denounced the agency in the wake of the boy’s discovery in July, he pressed the organization to speak publicly about the case and to conduct an internal review. DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier referred the matter to the state Inspector General’s Office for possible criminal conduct by DCFS workers.
Inspector General Stephen Street said Tuesday he could only confirm his agency is investingating DCFS in general.
Holland’s sister, Edna Mitchell, told The Advocate in July that DCFS workers had visited the child previously and likely knew about the teenager’s living conditions.
The agency acknowledged its workers were involved with the child, but in a report, the department stopped short of admitting it did anything wrong in the case, instead suggesting that witnesses had supplied the organization with incorrect information.
“DCFS staff interviewed relevant witnesses, inspected the home, obtained objective evidence of the child’s physical condition and documented these activities. … I learned that discretionary decisions were made by various DCFS staff that possibly would have been made in a different manner if additional information had been obtained or if the information they received had been accurate,” DCFS executive counsel Charlie Dirks, wrote in the report.
The teenager was found in a dilapidated “rent house” in which several tenants pay a small amount for their own rooms and share a kitchen and bathroom.
Sonnier said DCFS would institute a new policy for handling nonverbal or special-needs children in which the agency would consult a multidisciplinary team, including medical professionals.
Holland’s court-appointed attorney, Barry Milligan, of the East Baton Rouge Parish public defenders’ office, did not respond to requests for comment.
DCFS spokeswoman Tia Embaugh said she could not speak about the case but added she can “confirm, clarify or correct third-party public statements.”
Williams had called for the creation of a legislative ad-hoc committee to review the child protection agency’s performance and budget, but with his death in August, those efforts have largely stalled.
In a disturbing repeat of events, four children were removed last month from a Darryl Drive house soiled by feces, vomit, urine and insects only after a Baton Rouge police officer discovered the youngsters because of a call about a disturbance.
Efforts to reach Mitchell to check on the boy’s status were unsuccessful Tuesday.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III declined to comment on the situation.
Holland remains jailed in lieu of $115,000 bail, Hicks said. Holland pleaded not guilty to cruelty to a juvenile and cocaine possession Aug. 24. The next court date in her case is Feb. 16.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.