Henderson County parents arrested after toddler found dead in home

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Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 10:17 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2021 at 11:55 PM CST

MURCHISON, Texas (KLTV) - Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse has said that his office could file additional charges against the parents whose 18-month-old child was found dead in a home in the Henderson County area.

According to a press release, Daniel David Dennis, 25, and Erin Michelle Dennis, 23, both of Murchison, were both originally charged with abandoning and endangering a child because of injuries to two other children in the home who have now been placed in the custody of Child Protective Services.

The couple’s bond amounts were set at $1 million each.

“This is one of the worst cases we’ve seen,” Hillhouse said.

Daniel and Erin Dennis were arrested at a Murchison home on a private road.

The two other children are 4 and 2-years-old respectively.

“I am awaiting the official autopsy report,” the sheriff said. “But I fully expect additional charges for the death of the youngest child.”

Henderson County Sheriff’s Office investigators and deputies were dispatched out to a home in the 5600 block of Private Road 7801 on Tuesday about an 18-month-old child that was found dead by his mother.

The HCSO investigator spoke with the UT Health EMS personnel at the scene, and they told him David Dennis, the 18-month-old child, was dead, and the cause of death was unknown. The EMS personnel said when they arrived, they found David in the room, and it was very hot. They added that they noticed a small, white space heater that was turned on. EMS personnel told the sheriff that David had been “down for a while.”

The EMS personnel said about six minutes went by before they could the temperature of the room, which was approximately 97 degrees Fahrenheit. They checked the toddler’s temperature on his head and chest, and it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit.

EMS personnel told the sheriff that David had been “down for a while.”

According to the press release, HCSO investigators described the conditions in the home as horrible with human feces on the wall and dirty diapers on the floor.

The HCSO investigator who obtained the abandoning and endangering a child warrant spoke to Daniel and Erin Dennis. Erin Dennis said that she last checked on her son around midnight, and he seemed normal, the affidavit stated. She changed his diaper, and she allegedly said the only strange thing she noticed was some bumps that were possibly diaper rash or bug bites.

“The mother said she awoke Tuesday morning to play video games,” the press release. “She then checked on the three children and found the 18-month-old dead.”

Erin Dennis told HVSO investigators that David did not have any current medical conditions other than poor circulation in his legs, but the doctor did not know why, the affidavit stated. The toddler’s mother said her doctor told her to keep David’s room to help with his circulation, which is why she had the space heater on.

According to the affidavit, Erin Dennis told HCSO investigators that she had three children. Her 2-year-old boy shared a room with David, and the 4-year-old has her own room. She pointed out the door to the girl’s room and said her daughter was “an escape artist.” One of the investigators noticed that the door had a lock on the outside.

At that point, the investigator who obtained the arrest affidavit asked for and got consent to look through the house. The investigator saw David lying on the floor, and it was clear that rigor mortis had set in, the affidavit stated.

The investigator noticed two cribs in the room. One had been turned upside with the mattress on the floor and the metal supports across the top creating a “cage.” A plastic 360-degree child play fence surrounded the crib.

When the HCSO investigator checked the girl’s room, he found that the only thing inside the room was a small crib mattress in the corner, the affidavit stated. He noticed what appeared to be human feces on the walls and the inside of the door. A small child’s handprints were visible in the feces, and there was a strong smell of feces and urine in the room.

The HCSO investigator also noticed feces on the wall of the room shared by David and his brother, the affidavit stated. Dirty diapers littered the floor.

“Inside the master bedroom, affiant noticed several firearms leaning against the wall unsecured,” the affidavit stated.

Medical professionals at UT Health Hospital checked out the two surviving children and found signs of physical trauma on both of them, the affidavit stated.

Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Tony Duncan performed the inquest and ordered an autopsy, the press release stated.

The Sheriff’s Office is being assisted by the Henderson County District Attorney’s Office and Child Protective Services with this investigation.

The arrest affidavits were issued by 392 Judicial District Court Judge Scott McKee, the press release stated.

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