MARIETTA, Ga. – When a little girl knocked on James Fisher’s door asking for food at 7 p.m., Saturday evening, he was more than happy to welcome her inside for a heaping plate of spaghetti and to play with his kittens.
“It was pretty obvious, she wanted help. She wanted us to do something about it,” Fisher said of the girl, whose mother was nowhere to be found.
By about 2 a.m., Fisher said, the 11-year-old girl was sleeping on his couch. Fed up with no sign of her mother, Deborah Oats, he called the police, with the presumption that she was out clubbing--because it happened frequently, he said.
“It’s just unacceptable for a mother to do whatever she wants when she has a kid at home.”
After a call to police, he took the girl back to her neighboring apartment she shared with 52-year-old Oats.
Upon entering the apartment, a thick wall of humidity hit Fisher's face, as he saw a “colony of roaches scattered throughout” the living room, kitchen, bedroom and across a broken air conditioner.
Fisher also witnessed a slew of fleas and ticks, attributed to the family’s dog and three cats, as well as a dirty mattress in the girl's bedroom.
“The apartment was a wreck; it was horrible—like if you’ve ever seen an episode ‘Hoarders,’ almost like that,” Fisher recalled.
Fisher said that he observed dirty dishes, dog food and animal feces throughout the apartment, as well as a “fungus growing” on the kitchen and bathroom floors. There was additional fungus on the freezer and refrigerator among a flurry of scurrying roaches.
“There’s poop on the floor sometimes, cause they don’t let the dog out.”
When her mother arrived home from the night club, just before 3 a.m., on June 16, Marietta Police officers arrested her at her Bells Ferry Road apartment.
Officer Michael Malcolm spoke to Oats that morning and she told him that she was at an address at Roosevelt Circle, which he stated in the warrant, is “known to be in a drug area.”
Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) also arrived on the scene and took the child into protective custody.
Officer Chuck McPhilamy said the conditions of the apartment were terrible.
“The conditions were deplorable from animal feces to insects to lack of food,” the officer said.
“Anytime that a child is involved it touches each person’s heart, especially an officer that’s responding because you’re dealing with someone that’s helpless that’s relying on an adult for care,” he said.
Oats is being held at the Cobb County Jail on a $10,000 bond, charged with second-degree cruelty to children-criminal negligence/causes excessive physical/mental pain.