Man pleads guilty to lighter charges for endangerment

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Denver Brooks accepted misdemeanor charges, but tried to downplay his role in dirty conditions found at his home.

A father pleading guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment Monday sought to downplay his role in allowing unsanitary conditions including a major roach infestation in his home.

Denver Brooks, 24, said time spent working made it more difficult to make sure the Cape Girardeau house he shared with his wife, two children, mother and other adults was clean.

It was his mother's home, he said to Judge Benjamin Lewis, as he tried to explain why he wasn't more active in keeping it clean.

But under questioning from Lewis, Brooks admitted he should have protected his children from unhealthy living conditions.

"My house was dirty, and I didn't clean it," Brooks said. "I didn't help my wife clean it."

Brooks pleaded guilty after prosecutors reduced the charge from felony endangerment. Assistant prosecutor Angel Woodruff recommended a suspended sentence and probation, but Judge Benjamin Lewis deferred, asking for a presentencing investigation.

"There are dirty houses, and there are filthy and unsanitary ones so dirty it creates a substantial risk," Lewis said.

The presentencing investigation will look into Brooks's past and the current conditions for his children to make a recommendation on an appropriate sentence.

Brooks and his wife, Melanie R. Brooks, were charged after Cape Girardeau police accompanied Missouri Children's Division worker Donna Kuntze on a June 22 visit to their home at 1827 Big Bend Road.

In an interview in October, patrolman Henry Voelker said he saw food items rotting on tables and countertops. The roaches were so bad that they crawled over his hand as he wrote out a report at the scene, he said.

The children were removed from the home at the time but have since been reunited with the parents.

Melanie Brooks has also been charged with felony child endangerment. She will be in court Monday for a hearing.

The case is one of three within the Cape Girardeau city limits where children were found living in filthy conditions. A mother, Terri Duncan, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges last week for the conditions in her apartment at 426 North St.

In the other case, Karen Clark and Cedric Moore must answer felony charges for the conditions their six children were living in at 215 Pearl St.

In similar cases in the area, a Scott City mother pleaded guilty to misdemeanor endangerment charges and a rural Perry County couple will be in court Friday for a preliminary hearing. In the Perry County case, Michael and Emily Altom are charged with voluntary manslaughter for neglecting their 4-year-old son's medical needs.

Lewis sought more in-depth information about the conditions in the home after Brooks denied rotting food was sitting out in the house. There was hamburger out when police and child protection worker Kuntze arrived, he said, but it was to be cooked for dinner that evening.

Woodruff, in reply, said the evidence showed "large piles of trash throughout the house" as well as raw meat on the kitchen counter and a dangerous infestation of bugs.

When he ordered the presentencing investigation, Lewis said he needed to know more. "There is a disconnect between your version and their version," he told Brooks.

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