Four brothers found in a filthy, faeces-covered apartment were never taught how to speak and called each other "Robert", police say.
The boys had “limited contact” with the outside world – and didn’t even realise there was a malnourished puppy kept inside an excrement-filled cupboard nearby.
Their dad, Robert Preston, 31, has been arrested and charged with child endangerment.
He is accused of leaving a two-year-old, three-year-old twins and a five-year-old alone in a filthy and unfurnished apartment in Dallas, Texas.
When the police tried to speak with the children, they used facial expressions, gestures and screams to communicate with each other, and referred to each other as “Robert”, reports Fox 4.
Police said they had odd language patterns and were reportedly unable to tell officers their own names. The only thing the five-year-old could say was “get dog”.
Preston was arrested on Saturday and charged with four counts of child endangerment after a neighbour found one of the twins wandering around in the cold, wearing just a T-shirt and one shoe, reports Fox 4 News.
His arrest affidavit says Preston approached officers while they were speaking with the concerned neighbour, and asked them if they’d found his son.
When cops told him he had outstanding warrants – and put him in the squad car – Preston apparently advised them they should check on the other three children in his apartment.
He claimed to officers he’d gone to the store to buy food for them, and had only left them alone for about 10-15 minutes.
When cops entered the unlocked apartment they noticed the oven was on and and the other three boys were sitting on the floor as there was no furniture.
The arrest affidavit said the apartment “reeked of faeces, and the toilets of both bathrooms did not appear to have been flushed in weeks, even though the water in the apartment was in working order.
“The kitchen sink was about to overflow with stagnant water that smelled like a dead animal; old food was floating in the water and the water had become opaque.”
The police officers then discovered a small malnourished puppy inside a faeces-filled cupboard.
The children are said to have reacted as if they’d never seen the puppy before, and they ran around and screamed after the cops rescued it from the cupboard.
Child Protective Services have taken custody of all four boys, along with their sisters, aged six and nine, who were living in a different home at the time of their dad’s arrest.
The puppy has been taken by Dallas Animal Services. Preston is being held in Dallas County Jail.
In a jailhouse interview with Fox 4, Preston said his children had been taught their names, but added: "My kids are premature, so they really don't know how to answer questions."
He said that his two-year-old son would "put toilet paper in the toilet and flush the toilet all day".
Preston added: "I was gonna clean it up... we do not live like that on the regular. We are not bad people."