(WSVN) - Young children were found alone deep inside a South Florida property — the deplorable living conditions sparking a police investigation. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.
In this part of rural Southwest Miami-Dade County, the paved roads turn to dirt.
The properties are massive and wooded, so it’s hard to see what is behind the trees.
But what police found on one lot was disturbing.
7News obtained pictures from the property off of Southwest 169th Avenue.
A Miami-Dade Police report describes a little boy found living in an “abandoned U-Haul truck.”
He “appeared dirty and was found alone” in “deplorable conditions.”
Inside the U-Haul: a mattress, clothes and food.
A groundskeeper told police immigrants from Guatemala were living on the property in trailers and sheds.
Jonathan Fried, executive director of WeCount!: “Can you imagine living in a tin hut like that with the heat here?”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement first found the property in April and alerted police.
Officers said the boy was left with “crackers and water to sustain himself throughout the day” while his father worked.
Jonathan Fried, who runs a nonprofit for undocumented immigrants, is not surprised.
Jonathan Fried: “I think it’s fairly common. I have seen it a lot in rural areas.”
We wanted to see the conditions for ourselves, so we drove inside down a dirt driveway to the back of the property.
That’s where we found the makeshift homes.
Two little boys, who looked like they were around 5 years old, spotted us and ran.
Brian Entin: “Hello? Anybody here? Hello?”
The boys appeared to be alone.
Here in the back of the property, it’s clear this is where people are living. These trailers have been converted into mini houses. There’s a window and even a door. On one side, there is another trailer where people have their clothes out to dry, and then there is a structure that’s made of plywood. On the inside, there are mattresses and power cords running along the walls.
Jonathan Fried: “When you have children there, it’s a whole other story that I think is particularly intolerable.”
The couple who owns the property doesn’t live here.
Property records show Juan and Maritza Martinez live in a house about 15 miles away.
No one answered, but then we saw a woman in an upstairs window.
Brian Entin: “Hi, my name is Brian. I’m from Channel 7. We are doing a story about the property on Southwest 169th Avenue.”
Two women eventually opened the front door.
Brian Entin: “Well, we were just there. It’s disturbing. I mean, we saw two little kids alone.”
Woman: “Well, I’m in shock. I’m in shock.”
Brian Entin: “People are literally living in converted trailers with plywood. Someone was sleeping in the back of a U-Haul trailer.”
Woman: “I have no idea what’s going on. Like I said, it’s a rental property. We have one person on the contract. That’s all I have to say.”
It’s unclear where the boy found alone in the U-Haul truck is now.
The Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office said they’re not pursuing criminal charges because the Florida Department of Children and Families is handling the case.
The Department of Children and Families told 7News their investigation is ongoing.
Copyright 2019 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.