Robert Preston was arrested and jailed on child endangerment charges

By Jeff Truesdell
February 26, 2019 01:30 PM
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Credit: Dallas County Jail

The young boys called each other “Robert” because they did not appear to know each others’ names. Inside the squalid Dallas apartment where they were found, they used “gesturing and screams” to communicate.

On Saturday police arrested the boys’ father, 31-year-old Robert Preston, and charged him with four counts of abandonment and endangering his four children, ages 3 to 5, after alleging he left the boys home alone with the stove on while he stepped away.

Officers were summoned to the scene Saturday night in south Dallas after a neighbor spotted one of those boys, a 3-year-old, wandering in the apartment building’s parking lot, shivering and without a coat in the cold, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, reports Dallas-Fort Worth TV station KTVT.

As officers were investigating, Preston walked up and asked them whether they had located his child, the affidavit states, according to the Dallas Morning News.

He told officers he’d gone to the store for 10 or 15 minutes, leaving the stove on so he could prepare dinner when he returned. Officers discovered he was wanted for a parole violation on an aggravated robbery charge, and put Preston in a squad car under arrest.

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At that point, Preston requested that someone check on his other children.

Officers had assumed the 3-year-old retrieved by the neighbor was Preston’s only child, but entered the unlocked door of his apartment to find the other three boys sitting on the floor in conditions that were “filthy,” with no furniture, open bottles of alcohol on the floor and a stench throughout that “reeked of feces,” according to the affidavit, reports WFAA.

“The children do not appear to have been socialized in a normal manner and it appears they have had limited contact with anyone outside of their immediate family,” wrote a police officer who encountered the scene.

Officers said that when they asked Preston about the conditions, he “portrayed the situation as normal,” the affidavit states.

In addition to the burning oven, officers found a malnourished dog inside a feces-laden closet, and when the closet door was opened, “the children reacted to the dog as if they had never seen it before, screaming and running around,” the affidavit states.

The four children — a 2-year-old, 3-year-old twins, and a 5-year-old — “displayed off language patterns,” according to the affidavit. “They used facial expressions, body language, gesturing, and screams to communicate.”

They also called each other by the same first name as their father — “Robert” — “because they did not know their own names,” the affidavit states.

All four children were immediately placed with Child Protective Services, after the 2-year-old was taken to Children’s Medical Center Dallas to be checked out, reports the Morning News.

Preston remains in Dallas County jail on a $20,000 bond on each of the four child endangerment charges, PEOPLE confirms via jail records. Those records do not indicate if an attorney has been named who could speak on his behalf.

Court records show Preston previously pleaded guilty in 2016 to aggravated robbery, receiving a sentence of five years’ probation.