Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 2, 2014

Father of Rowan children arrested

‘Deplorable’ conditions lead to incarceration

Lana Bellamy
The Independent

MOREHEAD — Police on Wednesday arrested the father of nine children who were found living in squalid conditions in Rowan County the previous day.

Jonathan Prater, 34, was lodged in the Montgomery County Regional Detention Center on a warrant charging him with first-degree wanton endangerment, Kentucky State Police at Morehead said.

The KSP said it was notified Wednesday that Prater was a St. Joseph Hospital in Mt. Sterling seeeking treatment for injuries suffered in a fall. Troopers and Mt. Sterling city police officers responded. Prater was treated and released into police custody.

Prater faces the same charge as the children’s mother, Edith Strange, 35. She was arrested on Tuesday after troopers and social workers went to a home on Igo Road and found Strange’s and Prater’s nine children, ranging in age from 2 months to 17 years, living in what the KSP described as “deplorable” conditions.

The KSP said it went to the residence in response to a complaint made to the Rowan County Department of Social Service alleging there was no food in the house and the children were being abused.

WLEX-TV of Lexington reported that court documents indicate there was no running water, no electricity and very little heat in the house and no functioning bathroom facilities — a five-gallon bucket was being used as a toilet.

According to those same documents, the only food police found in the house was three bags of rice and they were being kept under lock and key. The children told authorities they were fed only one meal a day, consisting of either rice or oatmeal.

 All nine children were removed from the residence.  The 2-month-old was admitted to a hospital for treatment of malnutrition, dehydration and hypothermia, the KSP said. A second child was admitted as well, for malnutrition and dehydration. Four other youngsters were treated and released.

WLEX and other media outlets reported the children had been placed in foster care.

A neighbor, Letha Payton, told the TV station anything was better than what the children had.

“They would be down here at 8:30, and then at 1. Then come back at 2 or 3 and get water. They’d come two to three times a day,” she said.

Payton said for about a month and a half, the children came to her home to ask for water several times a day, and she sometimes even fed them and gave them clothes.

Strange and Prater both remained in custody on Thursday.

First-degree wanton endangerment is a Class D felony that carries a one- to five-year prison sentence.

The case remains under investigation by Trooper Jay Cottrell, the KSP said.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.