Houston child abandonment case: What we know so far about the death of 8-year-old Kendrick Lee

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas -- As we struggle to understand how an 8-year-old's body could be left in an apartment with his three siblings for a year in Texas' Harris County, and how someone could murder a child in the first place, we're also learning more about the case.

It has not been an easy one. Even investigators have admitted that.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has said he's never seen anything like it, calling it all heartbreaking.

"This one is up there. This one affected us," said sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Wolfford, who is the supervisor of the homicide unit tasked with the investigation.

Gloria Williams, 35, the children's mother, and her boyfriend, Brian Coulter, 31, have both been charged, the latter with murder.

As there will never be a reason for hurting innocent children and taking their lives, we're looking ahead to the next steps in this case.

This is what we have learned since news of the story broke on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.

2020


While it's only just been discovered that the remains of 8-year-old Kendrick Lee were in an apartment with his surviving brothers, ages 15, 9, and 7, the horrific events actually began in 2020.

One question people want an answer to: weren't these kids missing from school? Did nobody notice?

The Alief Independent School District confirmed to KTRK-TV that in 2019 and 2020, the school district filed truancy papers against the mother, Williams. Two of her children apparently failed to show up to school. District officials said the kids were last enrolled in May of 2020. A September 2020 home visit went unanswered, according to the district.

Sadly, shortly before Thanksgiving appears to be the last time that Lee would be alive. The holiday last year fell on Nov. 26.

November 2020

According to Wolfford, Coulter beat Lee to death sometime between Nov. 20 and Nov. 29, 2020.

The details of the beating are gruesome.

Lee's brothers said in testimony to deputies that Coulter kicked and punched the child repeatedly until he stopped moving and had black eyes. The boys said Coulter then covered his body with a blanket.

This all happened inside an apartment at CityParc II at West Oaks on Green Crest near Addicks Clodine and the Westpark Tollway.

Shortly after the murder, Coulter was arrested at a Buc-ee's in Luling, a Texas town of around 5,800 people located about 140 miles west of Houston along I-10.

"The manager of Buc-ee's called dispatch and asked for a welfare check on an intoxicated male subject who they thought was possibly armed with a handgun," explained Luling Chief of Police Bill Sala in an interview with KTRK. "My officer went out there and encountered Brian Coulter, and his passenger was Gloria Williams."

Sala said Coulter was in the Caldwell County Jail from Nov. 23 until Nov. 29 when he bonded out.

Based on those dates and the Harris County Sheriff's Office timeline, the little boy was killed just a day or two before the arrest.

Coulter's case in Luling is still pending.

2021


What has happened in the nearly one year since Lee's murder? That is among the many pieces of the investigation officials are trying to put together.

We know this: that on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, Harris County deputies responded to the scene at the apartment complex, where Lee's skeletal remains were found and his siblings were left abandoned.

The sheriff's office says they received a call from a 15-year-old claiming that his brother had been dead for a year in the apartment he shared with his siblings.

The teenage boy also told 911 dispatchers that his parents had not lived in the apartment with him and his two living siblings for several months.

Before calling for help, the 15-year-old texted his mom to tell her he could not take it anymore, ABC13 has learned.

When deputies arrived, they found skeletal remains consistent with what that teenage boy told dispatchers.

Meanwhile, deputies located Williams and Coulter, and after being interviewed by law enforcement, were released on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. No charges were filed.

But the next day, Tuesday Oct. 26, 2021, the couple was charged: Williams with injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence, a human corpse and Coulter with murder.

Sheriff Gonzalez said the pair could face more charges.

Coulter and Williams were arrested that night at a public library where they were searching news articles about themselves.

Also Tuesday, the medical examiner ruled Lee's death a homicide, caused by multiple blunt force injuries.

Investigators believe Williams and Coulter moved out, leaving the children to fend for themselves as their brother's body decomposed. ABC13 learned the couple lived in an apartment just 15 minutes away in the Westchase District.

On Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, charges were read in court against Coulter, though he did not appear. He was being evaluated at a mental health unit.

The judge set his bond at $1 million. The judge also ordered him not to have contact with any minors, specifically the minor witnesses in the case, and no contact with the boys' mother.

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While the man charged with the boy's murder did not appear due to a mental health evaluation, a judge still set his bond and gave bond orders.



A judge set Williams' bond at $900,000: $350,000 for injury to a child, $300,000 for tampering with evidence and $250,000 for injury by omission. Williams has also been ordered to have no contact with her children, or any other minors, and no contact with Coulter.

Coulter appeared before a judge for the first time in the case on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.

The judge who was supposed to see Coulter recused himself from the case for personal reasons. It's unknown at this time what those reasons are, so another judge filled in.
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WATCH: Judge sets bond for Gloria Williams, charged after her 8-year-old son was found dead in west Harris County.


When Coulter arrived, he walked in slowly, asking the judge several questions. At times, it appeared that he didn't understand what was being read to him.

Coulter also asked the judge to repeat what the charge was against him, and if he's convicted, if the sentencing is indeed five to 99 years or life.

The judge said yes, but also advised him to speak through his attorney because anything he says in court can be used against him.

The initial judge's recusal has implications in the case, at least for now.

Williams was expected to go before a judge on Friday. That appearance has now been pushed back.

Both she and Coulter are still in jail.

What did neighbors know? "I knew he was starving and needed food"



Neighbors told KTRK the 15-year-old relied on them for food.

Resident Erica Chapman said she noticed something was wrong, and started to give the eldest child food six months ago.

Chapman said the teen wouldn't accept cooked meals. He would only take packaged snacks, fruit and pizza.

"I didn't want to push him away by asking questions because I knew he was starving and needed food," Chapman said.

The apartment the boys were living in was in a deplorable condition, officials said. The unit reportedly had no furniture, no bedding, soiled carpet and cockroach and fly infestations.
But could the children have been discovered sooner?

One neighbor told ABC13 that she complained for months about the smell coming from the apartment where the boys were found, but nothing was done.

Another neighbor said she would see Coulter and Williams come and go, but never saw any children.

A third neighbor, Trevor Thompson, described the 15-year-old as paranoid and said he was afraid of getting poisoned, which is why he would only accept certain food.

"A few times I noticed the lights weren't on, and it was quiet upstairs, so I figured there was trouble because the parents haven't been there in a while," Thompson said. "One day, he came here and knocked on the door and asked if he could use the charger, and we built a bond from there. I started offering him food because I knew he needed more than just a charger."

Two neighbors said they never called authorities because they didn't understand the magnitude of the situation. They said the 15-year-old kept to himself and was quiet and didn't answer many questions.

According to the sheriff's office, after they were discovered, all three surviving boys were taken to the hospital, where doctors said they were malnourished with injuries.

Investigators believe Coulter beat the 9-year-old and caused an injury about three weeks ago. No medical attention was given at the time. The boy will soon undergo surgery, officials said.

What do we know about the children, their parents or other family members?



While we know that Williams is the children's mother, Coulter is not their father.

Sheriff Gonzalez said it appears some of them have different fathers. Investigators believe one father is deceased and the other is not in the picture and has no contact with his kid(s).

Investigators said the boys have special needs, noting that early information indicates that at least two of the boys have autism.

Williams reportedly told deputies she witnessed her boyfriend punching her now-deceased son in Nov. 2020 and that she tried to stop him. The next day, she said she went back into the room where the beating took place and found the 8-year-old deceased under the blanket.

According to the details revealed in court, Williams admitted she knew her son was dead, but did not notify law enforcement because Coulter told her not to, she was afraid her kids would be taken by CPS, and she was afraid she would go to jail.

'A mother doesn't do that'

Meanwhile, we've heard from Melody Robinson, the grandmother to one of Williams' daughters, who were not in the apartment.

According to the sheriff's office, Williams has six children.

Robinson is the grandmother of Williams' third oldest child, a girl who is now 13. Robinson has had custody of her since she was 2.

Click for the statement from Coulter's family and watch the interview with Robinson below.
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The family of Gloria Williams' other kids said they are horrified of what they've learned but also say she was very unstable.


"She was very unstable," Robinson said of Williams.

Robinson said Williams and her son previously were together for about 3 years. At one point, they all lived together at Robinson's home, including the now-15-year-old who made the dreadful 911 call on Sunday during which he revealed the terrible conditions in which he and his brothers had been living for months.

"That's one of the questions everyone wants to know, 'Why did he wait so long?'" Robinson asked. "When somebody has scared you and has had you. You watched this man kill your brother, you watched him break your other brother's jaw, you know. I'd be afraid, too."

NOTE: The ages of the three boys, as provided by authorities, have changed as more details have been released about the case. At a press conference, officials said the surviving brothers are 15, 9 and 7, and the deceased boy was 8 at the time of his death last year after initially saying that he was 9.
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