Three adults charged for leaving a pair of toddlers tied up like dogs in their backyard could now face life in prison, thanks to updated charges from the Bexar County District Attorney's Office. On Monday, prosecutors bumped the original third degree child abuse charges to a first degree felony after a medical examination confirmed the children's injuries were life-threatening.
Police discovered the two siblings
, ages 3 and 4, in April, following a tip from a neighbor who had heard children crying. The youngest toddler had her arms tied to a doorknob with a dog leash, her older brother had a metal dog chain locked around his ankle and cemented to the ground. At the time, investigators said the pair had hundreds of scars from months, if not years, of neglect and abuse. The girl was suffering from hypothermia and an untreated broken arm.
New medical reports say these injuries could have killed them.
Cheryl Reed, Deandre Dorch, and Porucha Phillip were indicted in July
for the children's abuse, along with the neglect of six other children living inside the house at the time. Reed, the toddler's mother, had left her children in the care of Dorch and Phillip, who lived at the northeast San Antonio residence.
The upgraded felony charges
could put the trio behind bars for anywhere between five to 99 years — far beyond their previous maximum sentence of 10 years.
Current Bexar County DA Nico LaHood has focused on tightening child abuse laws and ramping up abuser sentencing since his 2014 campaign
for office. An August report found Bexar County child abuse cases have dropped 28 percent
over the past five years — but officials warned that hundreds of cases often go unreported.