The barn was "crudely fashioned" into living quarters, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said, adding that all the children were hungry and thirsty around 7:20 a.m. when deputies responding to a domestic disturbance found them on the property near Rhome, about 32 kilometers north of Fort Worth. The older of the two children were locked in a 3x3ft cage, while two younger children were found outside the cage but only partially clothed and smeared with faeces and urine.
Johnson said food was kept just out of reach of the children in a refrigerator that had three straps on it to lock it.
The children, who range in ages between one and five years old, were fed by authorities and sent to a hospital to be evaluated. Deputies arrested Harkins and Fabila on four counts of child endangerment each and took them to the Wise County Jail, Johnson said.
Akin told reporters both the man and woman have each been charged with four counts of endangering a child.
Akin says two of the children were inside, but that the deputies found two more in an outbuilding, crammed into the 3-by-3 feet (90-by-90 centimeter) cage. Harkings was also charged with assault. Food in the house was locked up and not accessible by the children.
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"I've not worked [a case] where children are locked inside a dog kennel, and I find that absolutely disgusting", he said.
"The others appeared malnourished, covered in urine and feces", Akin said. She declined to share details of their condition and treatment.
The man was hospitalized for an injury to his face, the NBC affiliate reported. They were taken to a hospital for evaluation.
The parents of the children had been fighting and the man had cuts to his face, Akin said. They were arrested and each charged with four counts of child endangerment.
The couple has had contact with the Department of Children Services before Tuesday's investigation, according to DFPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales.