Police Find Dehydrated, Malnourished 4-Year-Old Alone In Apartment With Deceased Mother

Posted on March 27, 2013


The child survived for days on sugar, because he was too weak to open the refrigerator or operate a can opener.  He thought his mother was sick and tried to care for her.

New Jersey (The Gaslamp Post) – Police responding to a call from building maintenance staff, of a strange odor inside of an apartment found an emaciated and naked 4-year-old boy locked inside of an apartment with the body of his dead mother.  At the time police found him, the little boy was only wearing a single sneaker.

Maintenance workers at an apartment building in Union Township notified police after several residents had complained of a foul odor coming from the apartment.  Officers Sylvia Dimenna and her partner Joseph Saur arrived at the door of the second-floor apartment and realized what the odor was.


Union Township police officer Sylvia Dimenna. Image Tom Haydon – The Star-Ledger.

After discovering the boy still locked inside by only a chain on the door, they instructed the 4-year-old to get away from the door, and then kicked it in.  Officer Dimenna reportedly scooped the child up in her arms and took him into the hallway.

“It was very hot inside,” Dimenna said. From the odor, the officers knew immediately that somebody, probably the child’s mother, was dead, she said.

Officers soon discovered the badly decomposed body of the child’s mother, identified as 38-year-old Kiana Workman, lying in her bed.  Although due to the advanced state of decomposition which meant that an autopsy wouldn’t be able to be completed until later this week, her death is believed to have been from natural causes.


Authorities removing the body of the 38-year-old mother who is believed to have passed away nearly a week ago in her Union Township apartment where her 4-year-old son was found alone. Image Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger.

She is believed to have been deceased for 4 to 6 days.

Officers Dimenna and Saur reportedly dressed the boy and Dimenna accompanied the child to the hospital, where he was treated for dehydration and malnutrition.  She reportedly stayed with him until state workers arrived to pick him up at around 6:00 pm last night.

“He was alert, very articulate, very bright,” the officer recalled.

Asked what he liked to eat, the boy said grilled cheese sandwiches.

“And hot chocolate, with marshmallows melting in the chocolate,” Dimenna recalled with a laugh.

During her stay with the little boy, he opened up and told her how he survived there during the extensive period of time.

The son told Dimenna he had eaten some sugar and tried to open a can of soup but couldn’t work the can opener. She said the boy told her there was food in the refrigerator, but he couldn’t open the door.

He had also reportedly told her that he had tried to care for his mother, not understanding that she was dead.  According to Union Township Police Director Daniel Zieser:

The boy also apparently rubbed lotion every so often on his mother’s skin, in an attempt to care for her, Zieser said.

The apartment was reportedly leased to Workman’s 64-year-old mother, who had recently been placed in nursing care and had undergone a double hip replacement.  According to authorities, she had been trying to reach her daughter for several days prior to her body being discovered.

Authorities are presently trying to locate the child’s closest family members.

(h/t:  Tom Haydon/The Star-Ledger)

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