Couple Found Injured, Living In Filthy Garage In Southeast Ohio

Published: .
Updated: .

Deputies in Athens County say an injured, elderly couple has been discovered living in a filthy garage in southeast Ohio.

"Something told me to keep knocking, so I kept knocking, then I heard voices inside, and I told them to come to the door," said Deputy Mike Burba of the Athens County Sheriff's Office.

Burba says he stopped by a West Second Street home for a routine wellness check after someone made an anonymous call.

"That's what took him so long to get to the door, cause he had to crawl," Burba said, referring to 79-year-old Jim Riley who answered the door.

"The odor coming from the place was unbelieveable," Burba added. "There were piles of trash, dog feces, stuff just stuffed anywhere and everywhere, cobwebs hanging everywhere, something out of a horror movie almost."

Burba says Riley was wearing no pants, was covered in dirt -  and told him he had been bitten by a dog.

"He just kept saying he didn't do anything wrong, and to come back in a few days and check on him," Burba said. "I said I wasn't going to do that. I was going to get him the help he needed right then and there."

As Deputy Burba ventured deeper inside this makeshift home, walking between knee-high piles of trash, he discovered Jim's sister, 88-year-old Ena Sharp, sitting in a chair, needing medical attention.

"The squad had to remove her from the chair, her skin was melted to the chair," said Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly.

Investigators say Ena Sharp was burned on her leg from her hip to her knee, when a nearby kerosene heater spilled and caught her chair on fire weeks ago.

They say she never got any help.

"It's difficult to understand how a family could let another family member live in this situation, let alone get to this situation," Kelly added.

Neighbors like Gloria Bradshaw are shocked.

"I didn't realize it was that bad," she said.

"If it wasn't for the anonymous person who called this in, and me being able to find them, they probably would have died, especially with how cold it's gotten the last couple of nights," Burba added. "They're in good hands now."

Ena Sharp's daughter happens to live right next door.

Investigators are looking into possible charges of neglect or negligence.

Ena Sharp continues to recover at The OSU Wexner Medical Center in serious condition.

Her brother is at an Athens hospital receiving treatment.

The sheriff says the county's Adult Protective Services office is working on getting both of them new places to live, once they both recover.

The sheriff says the county Health Department is also assessing the garage home, which is likely to be condemned and torn down.