Baby Matthew Elkins didn't survive even two months in a house so filled with trash that most of his eight siblings and parents slept on the same grimy mattress. He suffocated on that mattress Jan. 31. Derik Holtmann and Zia Nizami Belleville News-Democrat
Baby Matthew Elkins didn't survive even two months in a house so filled with trash that most of his eight siblings and parents slept on the same grimy mattress. He suffocated on that mattress Jan. 31. Derik Holtmann and Zia Nizami Belleville News-Democrat

National

A baby dies amid squalor. And a family’s secret is revealed

By Beth Hundsdorfer And George Pawlaczyk

Belleville News-Democrat

December 07, 2017 06:09 PM

UPDATED December 08, 2017 02:00 PM

Tim Elkins drank 10 to 12 beers in his basement as he and the kids watched a movie. No one sat on the other couch because it was mounded with empty Budweiser cans and other garbage.

Habitat for Humanity built the Elkins family the new house and since November 2012 the 11 family members filled room after room with their trash as pets defecated and an orange ooze grew beneath it all. They slept together on one grimy mattress as the trash closed in on them.

That is, they did so until the morning of Jan. 31. Baby Matthew wasn’t even two months old when his car seat flipped on the crowded bed and he suffocated sometime in the night.

The baby’s death did what no child welfare worker, relative or neighbor had been able to do. It ended the isolation that Tim Elkins demanded.

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This is the story pieced together from police, neighbors and experts that tries to explain how parents could allow their nine children to live in extreme filth and destroy every effort to help.

Read the full story here.

How can children live like that?

Police, experts and the Elkins family try to explain how mental illness and alcoholism combined to fill their houses with trash, and why it was allowed to continue.

Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com