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Parents get jail, prison time

January 04, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Stephen Arthur Lowe was sentenced Tuesday to serve five years in prison for allowing his children to live in squalor.

Stephen Lowe's wife, Patti Jane, was sentenced to six months in the local jail Tuesday.

Each had pleaded guilty in Washington County Circuit Court to two counts of contributing to dangerous conditions for their three children, found living in filth in an East Avenue home in November 1998.

In the matter involving their children, both the Lowes could have faced a maximum six years in prison and fines of $5,000 each.

The three boys, who are now 9, 11 and 13 years old, have been in foster care since the conditions of the 16 East Ave. home were revealed 14 months ago.

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Stephen Lowe, 50, told Judge Kennedy Boone in July that he had been living in the back of his van in the Hagerstown area. He said he showered at truck stops.

Patti Lowe, 36, moved to West Virginia.

Last summer, Stephen Lowe was jailed in Frederick County, Md., on unrelated charges.

In May, the couple fought unsuccessfully to have a judge throw out the graphic photographs taken by police and other evidence found in November 1998. They alleged the evidence was obtained unlawfully from the house from which the 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 had 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, 1999, 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 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 occurred at least three to four years prior to 1998.

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

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

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