LA VERGNE, Tenn.- The police chief in La Vergne is heart broken this weekend over a case of three children left home alone.
A suspected burglary is what prompted a 911 call to the Cedar Ridge Apartments Saturday night.
Next door neighbor Ellie Romero, a grandmother and lover of children, called police around 11:00 p.m. Saturday when she saw and heard what she believed was a burglary of the unit next door.
"I see a gentleman carrying a flatscreen (TV)," Romero told NewsChannel 5, recounting the event that prompted her to call for help.
LaVergne Police said once inside unit 1907, at the Cedar Ridge Apartments, they found those three children, a little girl, age 4; a middle brother, age 8; and the eldest child, a son, age 9; locked inside their respective, two bedrooms, their doors bound shut at the knobs with orange, ratchet tape. Now, investigators are trying to figure out whether this is the first time, or whether treating the kids like captives was standard practice in this apartment.
"What if there was a fire? What if the child got sick, or any of those kids," asked neighbor Harry James, who awoke to the police, fire trucks and ambulances. "What if they needed attention? What if someone fell in the room?"
"How they going to use the bathroom, if they have to go, in the middle of the night?" asked Romero. "If they're thirsty, or something, how are they going to get something to drink?"
Neighbors to the unidentified, biological mother of the three children's are outraged by the discovery and worried the alleged abuse might have been ongoing for some time.
That woman's boyfriend, Anthony Fuqua, was still on the run as of Sunday night. Police are looking for the fugitive, and plan to charge him with child abuse.
As for Mom?
"She claims that she had no idea that the children were being locked in the rooms," said Lt. Kyle Norrod, a detective with the LaVergne Police Department. "The children, it appears, have been locked in these rooms before, but it could've been when Mom was work."
The mother is not charged with anything yet.