A Pennsylvania man is accused of leaving his three young children at home alone for hours, keeping the oldest captive in a makeshift cage, PEOPLE confirms.
On Wednesday, state police responded to a call regarding the kids’ welfare. Upon arrival at their home in North Manheim Township, Pennsylvania, officers discovered a 22-month-old boy in the cage and a day-old baby girl in a carseat nearby. A 1-year-old boy was in a playpen in the same room.
The children’s father, 38-year-old Cecil “Gene” Kutz was arrested when he returned home. He was charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment, Pennsylvania State Police Sgt. Fred Krute tells PEOPLE.
“They’re young, they can’t fend for themselves,” Krute says. “It’s hard with little ones locked like that. You think, ‘What chance do these little ones have if their mom and dad view them like that?’ ”
During questioning, Kutz allegedly told investigators he’d kept his kids in the cage before and had left them there on Wednesday in order to visit their mother — his girlfriend — who was in the hospital after recently giving birth.
Police said Kutz’s girlfriend delivered an infant girl on Tuesday at their home. She suffered some complications the next morning and was taken to a local hospital, but doctors were alarmed when the couple said they had left their newborn at home.
“I want to get the word out there that we are not bad parents. Gene made a mistake, and now he’s got to suffer the consequences,” Kutz’s girlfriend, Tiffany George, told local TV station WHP. “I don’t agree with him. I’m very upset with him. But people do make mistakes.”
“The kids were not in any type of danger,” George said, reportedly describing the cage as a crib and playpen.
The handmade cage had a mattress pad, children toys and food, authorities said. It was made of latticework and plywood, with a bolted lock. All three children had been born in the home.
To neighbors, the couple didn’t stand out.
“He seemed like a generally nice guy but … that’s how weirdos are,” one neighbor, Matthew Condash, told WNEP. “They’re nice on the outside but deep down inside they’re no good. I hope he gets what he gets.”
Kutz remains in custody. It is unclear whether he has entered a plea to his charges or retained an attorney.
The three children are with child welfare officials, Sgt. Krute says.
He says George, whom PEOPLE could not immediately reach for comment, could face charges as the investigation continues.