Salem police charge couple living in ‘filth and squalor’ with child endangerment 

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Google maps squalor home
Image of 145 North Main St. in Salem via Google Maps, Aug. 2019.

SALEM, NH – Earlier this month, Salem Police arrested the adoptive parents of four children after finding allegedly squalid conditions inside their home at 145 North Main St.

“When entering the home, I was met with a putrid odor that I could equate to the odor of a dead body or rotting garbage,” Det. Jeff Czarnec noted in the arrest warrant affidavit. “Most of the house and rooms also had an odor of what appeared to be urine. The house had numerous flies in just about every room.”

Police charged Francis Lemieux, 58, and Cathy Ann St. Jean-Lemieux, 56, with six counts each of endangering the welfare of a child or incompetent, all misdemeanors, on Jan. 4. 

When a school nurse identified a number of concerning signs with one child, such as their hygiene, dirty clothes, bug bites, as well as the need for their sibling to have their hair cut at school, they reported the issues to the Division of Children, Youth and Families.

The charges were the result of observations by police officers who assisted a state child protective services worker inspect the home on Dec. 14, 2021, a follow-up search warrant executed on Dec. 28, and in response to allegations by one of the children who said they had been physically abused by Lemieux. 

The alleged victim told caseworkers that Lemieux habitually slapped them in the face. They said this would subside whenever DCYF is alerted and then later happens again with increased frequency.

“It is possible that additional charges are possible, however, the officer needs to have probable cause to bring the charge and a third-party report of an alleged disclosure may not be sufficient to bring charges,” said Salem Police Capt. Jason Smith. “Also, in developing probable cause, an officer must also take into consideration the rights of parents and guardians to punish a child under RSA 627:6 Physical Force by Persons with Special Responsibilities, when considering whether an actual assault occurred.”

The children’s ages are 10, 12, 16 and 17, according to Smith. The police report also names three additional people over the age of 18 who were adopted by St. Jean-Lemieux.

It’s unclear how the children came to be adopted. DCYF Spokesperson Jake Leon could only confirm that Lemieux and St. Jean-Lemieux are not currently registered as foster parents in the state.

“By statute, I am able to confirm whether an individual or family have a license to serve as foster parents,” Leon said. “According to our records, the individuals cited are not currently licensed as foster parents in the DCYF system.”

For the first visit, Czarnec was asked to assist DCYF caseworker Hailey Gravel and a trainee with the home assessment. Det. Paige Baril came with Czarnec to the home. St. Jean-Lemieux granted permission for Czarnec and Gravel to look inside, but some bedrooms in the back were still off-limits.

“The kitchen was filthy with dishes and dirty water in the sink,” Czarnec reported from the Dec. 14 visit. “A good portion of the walls in the kitchen and living room had stains in various areas. The living room had miscellaneous boxes and items piled up at my approximate chest height, against the wall.”

Save for a few commonly traveled areas, the floors were covered with clothes and items. 

St. Jean-Lemieux blamed the condition of her home on the children, whom she said created the messes but wouldn’t clean them, and on pain from a leg injury that she said makes it difficult to stand.

In addition to the generally unkempt conditions of the house observed during the first visit, police also noted a child identified as A.L. had been using a yoga mat that was less than an inch thick for a bed. The child would sleep on the mat on the living room floor, according to the report.

“My observations of the filth and squalor of the home, along with the discovered sleeping arrangement for A.L., led to the drafting of a search warrant,” Czarnec wrote.

Czarnec and Baril returned to the home to execute the search warrant, along with two other officers, the same day it was approved by a judge.

A number of high-profile child deaths, the result of abuse and neglect, have occurred in New Hampshire in recent months. Now, Manchester Police are seeking assistance from the public to locate a missing girl named Harmony Montgomery, 7, whom authorities announced Monday likely went missing sometime between Nov. 28, 2019 and Dec. 10, 2019.

According to witnesses, Montgomery’s father Adam, his then-wife Kayla Montgomery and their children were homeless and living out of cars during that time.

Earlier this month, Gov. Sununu criticized a Massachusetts judge for granting the girl’s father Adam Montgomery sole custody in February 2019, calling him a “horrible individual.” 

Salem Police could not comment on the Montgomery case, but said reporting concerns of potential child abuse and neglect and intervening early is important.

“Of course, intervention and investigation of cases of child abuse and neglect are a critical function of law enforcement,” Smith said. “To that end, we work closely with DCYF to assist in their investigations when requested and forward all cases of possible abuse, neglect, or endangerment to them. Any reported case of neglect or abuse is a top priority for this agency and will always be fully investigated.”

Smith said the parents have been released on personal recognizance bail and are set to be arraigned at Salem District Court on Feb. 14.

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About this Author

Ryan Lessard

Ryan Lessard is a freelance reporter.