GMHA: COVID-19 prevented interior inspections of property where girl died in ‘filthy’ conditions

XENIA — The housing authority that owns the home where a 12-year-old girl was found dead in ‘filthy’ conditions last month said COVID-19 prevented them from doing interior inspections of the home.

Aaliyah Artis was found dead June 8, three days after her birthday. She was found at her house in the 1500 block of Texas Drive, according to a Xenia police report.

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News Center 7, under Ohio public records laws, inspected Artis’ autopsy report earlier this month and discovered the home she was living in was “filthy.”

According to coroner’s investigators, Artis had numerous insect bites, possibly from bed bugs, and the house had partially consumed food in every room and there was evidence of insect infestation.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no interior inspections were performed for one year, consistent with CDC and health department guidelines, but two exterior inspections were performed by GMHA, and the unit passed inspection,” said Brenda Smallwood, executive director at Greene Metropolitan Housing Authority, which owns the home.

Smallwood said the occupants of the house are in the process of being evicted from the property.

“When GMHA staff learned of the condition of the premises on June 8, 2021 immediate intervention occurred,” Smallwood said. “City officials were called in at GMHA’s request and condemned the premises as unsafe for human habitation.”

No criminal charges have been filed in the case.

Xenia Community Schools employees brought up concerns they had about the welfare of Artis multiple times to Xenia police and said they also filed reports with Greene County Children Services.

“Aaliyah has cognitive disabilities and she has been engaged in our remote learning form and it has been since September since our teacher has been able to engage or see Aaliyah,” Tecumseh Elementary School Principal Cathryn Rice told police dispatchers Jan. 12.

Rice said Artis’ teacher had dropped off school work at the house the previous day, but hadn’t seen Artis for months.

“She arrived and the curtains were drawn, and the doors were locked…that has been pretty consistent,” Rice said.

Xenia Police body camera footage from Jan. 12 shows two officers checking on the home after the call from the school district.

“Hi, we’re doing a welfare check to see if Aaliyahs here, if she’s ok?” an officer said in the video.

“Yeah, she’s fine,” the woman who answered the door said.

The woman never moved out of the doorway as she spoke briefly with officers.

“Have you been in contact with the school at all? Because, they said they cant get ahold of you at all,” an officer asks the woman in the video.

The officers urged the woman to contact school leaders about Aaliyah’s schooling, then left, apparently without seeing Aaliyah.

News Center 7 asked Xenia police if that is standard procedure with juveniles, since, without a warrant, officers would need the guardian’s permission to enter the home.

“While personal contact is often a preferred method for handling a welfare check, nothing in this case dictated that personal contact be made,” said Xenia Police Capt. Steve Lane. “There were no allegations of abuse or neglect and the mother agreed to contact the school.”

Lane said protocol on welfare checks for the department varies in different cases.

“The request for a welfare check may come from an anonymous source, a known individual, an organization, etc. The amount of information given to us also varies greatly,” Lane said. “These checks may range from circumstances that require immediate action, such as using physical force to get into a residence, to clearing the call without any action being taken.”

GMHA flagged the home during an annual inspection in September 2019 when “housekeeping issues were identified by GMHA staff, and so a subsequent inspection was done,” Smallwood said.

The tenant of the home was required to complete a housekeeping video and GMHA protocol when housekeeping issues are identified in an effort to improve health and safety. The last interior inspection of the home prior to Artis’ death happened in October 2019 and the unit passed inspection, Smallwood said.

About a year earlier, on Jan. 28, 2020, police responded to the house after the school become concerned about Artis not showing up for school for a week. Dispatch records showed Artis’ mother said she had missed the bus and records noted “conditions were fine.”

The Greene County Department of Job and Family Services Director was unable to verify whether the department had any open cases involving Artis prior to her death last month.

“We are not able to share any information on child welfare cases, which are confidential by law. The agency investigates allegations of abuse and neglect and provides supportive services to families and children,” Beth Rubin, Director of Greene County Department Job and Family Services, said. “We are prohibited from disclosing case-specific information regarding reports or activities.”