MABLETON, GA -- Neighbors didn't know what was going on inside the home off of Nickajack Road in Mableton. They saw trash piled in the backyard, grass overgrown, but what worried them the most were two little girls, ages 5 and 7, who lived there with their parents Ruth and Christian Swanson.
Kate Keib stands in the front yard of her Mableton home. Keib, an 11Alive employee, is a neighbor of the Swansons.
"I think the concerning thing about the kids is when you know children are there and you never see them," she said. "You see toys that don't move for a year."
Neighbors tell 11Alive News they are frustrated because they called DFACS three separate times asking for someone to investigate, to make sure the children were okay, but neighbors say DFACS officials told them they didn't have enough to investigate.
So last week one desperate neighbor called the Cobb County Police and begged them to do a welfare check on the children. They did.
One veteran officer who came to the scene says the conditions in the house were the worst he's ever seen.
Police say they found maggots in the bathrooms, molded food in the refrigerator, garbage bags piled to the ceiling with gaping holes where rodents were feeding, and two dead dogs, one in one the girl's rooms, another in their bathroom, both dead for months. A third dog, still alive and emaciated, was taken into animal control custody.
Cobb police called DFACS and the girls were put in protective custody. Christian and Ruth Swanson were charged with felony child cruelty and cruelty to animals. They're back home after making $50,000 bond.
"These people need to go to jail for a long time; they really do," said neighbor Bob Lane. "I just feel so sorry for those kids, I really do. It's just unimaginable, how they could do that."
11Alive News called DFACS officials to ask why they never investigated the conditions of the home for the children. They did not return calls.
It's a terribly sad end to a situation that could have ended earlier.