Mom accused of locking step kids in attic, basement

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A 46-year-old Cleveland woman placed under arrest in connection to a sickening case of child abuse.

Renee Lester is accused of abusing three of her stepchildren, ages 12, 12 and 10, at her Edgewater neighborhood home over the course of several months.

The children sought help from their principal at Marion C. Seltzer, as well as a social worker and Cleveland Police. According to the kids, Lester did not allow them to use the bathroom when they returned home from school each day. They also said they were locked in the attic, basement or a bedroom until the following morning.

In the basement, the children shared one couch to sleep on each night without any blankets. There was a toilet in another room, but the mother installed an alarm that would go off if anyone tried to use it and told them just to "hold it." Lester also allegedly took all of the light bulbs out of the room so the kids would be in complete darkness. All of the doors were doubled locked.

In the attic, there was nothing for kids to sleep on or any blankets to cover up with at night. The only light was from a street light outside shining through the window. The kids were sometimes locked in a bedroom, but there were no blankets and just one mattress. No lights were allowed in that room, either.

The children told police they were not allowed to take a shower or a bath and were told to use the sink to wash up. For food, their stepmother gave them the leftovers that she and her four biological children ate.

Police arrived at the children's Edgewater Drive home and confirmed the locks on doors, missing light bulbs and sleeping accommodations that were prepared for them. The other rooms in the house for Lester and her four biological children were well-furnished and in tact.

Lester who told police that she kept the stepkids locked up because "they steal stuff." She was arrested for child endangering and domestic violence.

All seven children were taken to the Jane Edna Center to be cared for by Social Services.

According to Social Services, there were four calls about these kids before having bruises and marks on their bodies.

Children's Services is conducting an internal investigation to determine who knew what and when, due to reports of earlier alleged abuse.

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