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Two admit contributing to dangerous conditions

July 19, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Stephen Arthur Lowe and his wife, Patti Jane, each pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of contributing to dangerous conditions for their three children, found living in filth in an East Avenue home last November.

Now subject to up to six years in prison and fines of $5,000 each, the Lowes remained free pending sentencing, according to Washington County Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone.

The three boys, who in November were 8, 10 and 12 years old, have been in foster care since the conditions of the 16 East Ave. home were revealed.

Stephen Lowe, 50, told Boone Monday he is living in the back of his van in the Hagerstown area. He said he showers at truck stops.

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"Patti has been told to make a choice ... my children or me," he said. He said he keeps in regular contact with his probation agent on some unrelated traffic offenses.

Patti Lowe has moved to West Virginia.

In May, the couple fought unsuccessfully to have a judge throw out the photographs taken by police and evidence found by police last November, which they claimed was obtained unlawfully from the house from which three children were removed.

On Nov. 5, 1998, Washington County Department of Social Services workers took the three boys into protective custody from the home where they were living in what police described as deplorable conditions.

Social Service caseworkers made numerous attempts to make a home visit but the door was never answered, court records said.

Records indicated the children weren't in school and claims by the Lowes that they were being home schooled were found to be untrue.

The family was not home when police arrived at 3:30 p.m. The children were taken after the family returned from a shopping trip, police said.

During a May 18 hearing, Hagerstown Police Detective George Knight said he could smell fecal matter through the mail slot.

From outside the home, Knight said he could see mounds of trash in the kitchen.

Entering through an unlocked door, police found decaying remains of a dog in a bedroom next to the room in which the children slept, police said. Dog feces was found in every room.

In the kitchen, the refrigerator door was found ajar and uncovered food inside was crawling with maggots, court records said.

Police and social workers learned of an extensive history with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services involving two allegations of physical abuse and three neglect investigations when the family lived there. All were at least three to four years prior to 1998.

Patti Lowe had threatened to move her family to Colorado to avoid further investigation, police learned.

"The police were justified in believing that the Lowe children were being harbored inside the residence to avoid further investigation and contact with the authorities," Beachley said in his ruling.

In exchange for the guilty pleas Monday, three counts of reckless endangerment were dropped.

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