TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A pregnant mother of 12 pleaded not guilty to a child neglect charge Thursday after authorities found her children in a trash-strewn Tulsa home with collapsing ceilings and no running water.
Special Judge Deborrah Ludi-Leitch entered the plea on behalf of the 38-year-old woman, who appeared by video from jail. The judge also appointed a public defender to represent the woman and set a June 30 court date.
A 41-year-old man who was living with the woman and also charged with child neglect is due in court for his initial hearing on Monday. No attorney information for either could be found in jail records.
The Associated Press is not naming the adults in order to protect the identities of the children.
The woman has had at least 33 Oklahoma Department of Human Services referrals and investigations, according to a police search warrant affidavit. Some of the children have been in and out of state custody throughout their lives, according to the affidavit.
A DHS employee who visited the house last week photographed the home and contacted police.
When officers arrived at the house, the woman told authorities she was three months pregnant with her 13th child, a police detective said.
Tulsa police Detective Aubrie Thompson said Thursday that four of the children remain in DHS custody and officers continue to search for the specific whereabouts of the others, although they are believed to be with relatives.
A spokeswoman for DHS said earlier in the week she could not comment specifically on the woman's case, citing state and federal confidentiality laws that only allow the agency to release summaries of its investigations into child welfare histories when a child dies and the person responsible for the care of the child is charged in the death.
In addition to trash littered feet deep in some areas of the house, the yard was filled with trash and mattresses that the woman said she put outside more than three months ago because they were infested with bed bugs. Police also found a box of drugs, including methamphetamine, in the backyard in a hole covered with leaves, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says the woman told police that if her children lived at the house all the time, they "would be really sick."