Squatting couple indicted after children found locked in a room, eating a mattress in Mitchel Houses

An old tattered foam mattress with protruding springs in a room with dirty walls. Poverty, disorder
A couple was indicted after the woman’s daughters were discovered locked in a room in inhumane conditions.
Photo courtesy Getty Images

A Bronx woman and her boyfriend were indicted by a grand jury for neglecting two young girls who were found by police eating bits of a foam mattress, locked in a filthy room with signs of physical abuse, according to the Bronx district attorney.

They were both arraigned Monday in Bronx Supreme Court, according to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s office, after being arrested on May 27, according to the NYC Department of Correction (DOC).

Stephanie Grabowski, a 40-year-old Bronxite and her boyfriend Mark Russell, 45, were squatting in an apartment at the New York City Housing Authority’s Mitchel Houses at 300 E. 138th St., according to the DA’s office.

NYPD officers went to vacate the apartment on May 3 because it was a known home to squatters. Once they arrived, officers discovered Grabowski’s two daughters inside a filthy bedroom lined with feces, dirty diapers and garbage, according to the DA’s office.

One of Gabrowski’s daughters just turned five last week and the other will turn four next month, according to the indictment.

The officers noticed the bedroom door knob tied together with a nearby closet door with a “ropelike cord,” before kicking in the door and finding the two girls. The children were bruised and naked on a dirty “spongelike mattress” on the floor, according to Clark’s office.

One officer saw the children eating pieces of the mattress, according to Clark’s office.

Additionally, there was urine and feces around the apartment and there did not appear to be sufficient food, amenities, clothing or clean diapers, according to Clark’s office.

“The defendants allegedly kept these little girls in a house of horrors,” Clark said. “They illegally occupied an apartment and left the children alone without food or clothing. Fortunately, police rescued the girls, and a nurse discovered signs of abuse for which they are being treated. The situation is beyond the pale.”

Police brought the two children to the Children’s Advocacy Center the day after discovering the children on May 4, where a nurse examined the children and alerted the NYPD child abuse unit. The following day, on May 5, the two girls were examined at Jacobi Medical Center where they were found to have “significant bruising and marks in various stages of healing, rashes throughout their bodies and difficulties walking, standing and speaking,” according to Clark’s office.

Grabowski is being detained at Rikers Island and her boyfriend is being held in the Vernon C. Bain Center, which is near Hunts Point and across from Rikers, according to the DOC.

They were both indicted on two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of second-degree unlawful imprisonment, second-degree burglary and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Grabowski was also indicted on two counts of first-degree kidnapping for alleged conduct that took place between approximately Nov. 14 through May 3 at the Mitchel Houses apartment and also at 420 E. 169th St.

Officers found that Grabowski had a Family Court warrant after fleeing from Administration for Children’s Services in November and brought her to court, where orders of protection were issued, according to the DA’s office.

Bail was set for Grabowski at $150,000 cash/$400,000 bond/$400,000 partially secured bond at 10%, and for Russell at $100,000 cash/$200,000 bond/$200,000 partially secured bond at 10%, according to the DA’s office. Both defendants are due back in court on Sept. 13, though Russell also has a court date on July 27.

New York City instructs that if a child is in immediate danger, call 911, and if you suspect child abuse or neglect, call New York State’s 24-7 child abuse and maltreatment hotline at 1-800-342-3720.

Parents who are feeling overwhelmed can call 311 and ask for “parenting support” or contact the ACS Community Partnerships.

Reach Aliya Schneider at aschneider@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes