When Paul Diaz found three abandoned children in an apartment in east Bakersfield, it looked to him like they were living in a dog kennel.
The home was trashed. Feces had been smeared on a wall. The children were wandering in dirty diapers and the front gate of their building, leading out onto three-lane Niles Street, was wide open. Diaz, 42, was concerned they would run into traffic.
It wasn't the first time, Diaz said, that neighbors had seen the children neglected in that apartment in the 1300 block of Niles Street. Neighbors often saw the boys, ages 1, 3 and 4, wandering around the apartment complex, sometimes by themselves on the balcony and usually appearing unfed or dirty.
"There was nobody there with those kids," he said. "It was really bad."
Diaz said he thought the mother was neglectful and that her acquaintances may have used drugs in front of the kids.
"The kids weren't fed," Diaz said. "Maybe they're better off with someone who cares for them."
But he did try to help. About two months ago, he gave the woman's children some of his children's old clothes because, he said, they seemed to always be wearing the same things.
Finally, Diaz said, he called police.
Police discovered the same sort of circumstances that Diaz said he saw. The children, whom police discovered alone in the apartment on Tuesday, were living in soiled clothes, dirty diapers and filthy surroundings. Very little food was in the home.
When officers arrived, Diaz gave them diapers for the soiled children that he had purchased for his own children.
Bakersfield Police Sgt. Damon Youngblood said when changing the 1-year-old's diaper they found "severe infection on his genitalia."
The children's mother told KGET Channel 17 that she was in the hospital and had left them with her brother on Tuesday.
Youngblood verified that she was in the hospital. Her brother apparently left the children unattended, he said.
While the children were alone only for two days, conditions in the home, deemed uninhabitable by authorities, had been growing increasingly deplorable for some time.
Chief Code Enforcement Officer Randy Fidler said the home was without gas and power, a violation in Bakersfield in and of itself. Additionally, the wall heater was missing, trash and dirty diapers littered the floor, the kitchen was filthy and electrical wire was exposed, he said.
Urine-soaked mattresses lay on the floor and the couches had been spray-painted with black graffiti A code enforcement officer was brought in after police found the unhealthy conditions.
Fidler said his code enforcement officer posted a 48-hour notice on the door saying the resident would be required to restore electrical power before she could move back in.
"When (residents) don't have power and they want to warm something, they end up starting fires," he said. "... That's why we give them the notice."
The missing heater constitutes a code violation because city ordinance mandates every home must have heat.
No arrests have been made in the case, which remains under investigation.
Police took the children into protective custody and brought them in for medical treatment.
Youngblood said he was thankful people in the community were willing to report the situation.
"Any time you have to see three children subjected to that type of environment, it's heartbreaking," Youngblood said.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call BPD at 327-7111.