FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The abandoned home in Cottonwood had trash, debris, broken glass and rotting food throughout, and no running water. Deplorable living conditions for anyone, police said.
In the midst of it, authorities also found three children ages 2 to 5 covered in feces and urine, and suffering from lice, open sores, scabies and bumps. Their mother, Sarah Jean Easterday, told police she thought her children overall were in good health, except for wearing dirty clothes.
Police arrested her on suspicion of felony child abuse and possessing a methamphetamine pipe that was found on a mattress near documents with her name, according to court records.
“We see cases like this more frequently when there was a methamphetamine epidemic, and it seems there is a surge of that again,” Cottonwood police Sgt. Monica Kuhlt said.
The state Department of Child Safety took custody of the children after they were evaluated and treated at a local hospital, police said.
A spokesman for the child welfare agency, Darren DaRonco, said it could not comment on any interaction with Easterday or her children, citing confidentiality laws.
The 32-year-old Easterday, also known as Sarah Shortridge, remained jailed on a $50,000 bond and had a court appearance scheduled Thursday in Verde Valley Justice Court.
She’s been appointed an attorney, but the Yavapai County Public Defender’s Office said no one specifically had been named yet. A brother listed on court documents declined to comment Wednesday.
Easterday told police that she believed authorities were harassing her because she’s poor. She said the children’s clothes weren’t clean because the house had no running water to wash them, according to a probable cause statement. It also had one working electrical outlet, with several extension cords plugged in, police said.
Authorities described it as a “flop house” for drug users, and said the smell was “noxiously pungent.” Authorities were alerted to the home when a man who was there said he was hit in the head with a pistol and sought treatment in the emergency room.
Easterday wrote in court documents that she worked cleaning houses, lived at the house for a month and was trying to escape an abusive situation. She denied owning the meth pipe. On the top of her release questionnaire, she wrote in parentheses “please help us.”