Authorities discovered the skeletal remains of a child and three abandoned siblings living in a Houston apartment Sunday, police said, remains that may have been one of their siblings who died a year ago.

Harris County deputies responded Sunday afternoon to a call by a 15-year-old, who said that his 9-year-old brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the room next to his, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

When the police arrived to the apartment complex in western Houston, they found the three minors, ages 15, 10 and 7, abandoned in an apartment and living for a long time in deplorable conditions, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said during a news conference Sunday evening.

They also found remains that could be a minor’s and that appeared to have been abandoned there, also “for an extended period of time,” Gonzalez said.

“And I emphasize extended.”

Police did not identify the children.

The teenager told the deputies that his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with him and his two younger brothers for several months.

The youngest boys appeared to be malnourished and showed signs of physical injury, police said. They were taken to a hospital to be assessed and treated.

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“They were in there while the body was deteriorating,” said Gonzalez, who was visibly disturbed. In his career, he said, he had “never seen a scenario like this” with such “horrific circumstances.” Other members of the sheriff’s office were also “very troubled by this,” he said.

“It is heartbreaking,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez added that the siblings apparently “were fending for each other” and that the 15-year-old was taking care of the younger children.

The mother of the children, as well as her boyfriend, were located late Sunday night, Gonzalez tweeted. They were being interviewed by homicide investigators.

The three minors were with Child Protective Services on Monday, and the agency was seeking emergency custody of the children.

“To ensure the safety of the children, the Department of Family and Protective Services is seeking emergency custody of the three boys,” Melissa Lanford, spokesperson for the Texas department that oversees the CPS, said in a statement sent to The Washington Post.

“Child Protective Services does have history with the family, but there was no active CPS investigation at the time the children were discovered alone in their apartment,” the statement added.

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A removal hearing will take place in family court.

When children are found in a situation of neglect, the state typically seeks emergency removal to ensure that they are promptly moved into a safer situation.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond Monday to a request for further details about the case, including the circumstances of the alleged neglect.

The apartment where the children were found had no power for at least a couple of weeks, Harris County Deputy Thomas Gilliland told the Houston Chronicle, and neighbors had been bringing the children food and charging their cellphone.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office’s homicide, child-abuse and crime scene units are investigating.

On Sunday afternoon, neighbors at the apartment complex about 20 miles west of downtown Houston watched as detectives carried out their investigation.

Dianne Davis, who has lived at the complex for two years, told the Chronicle that the building manager regularly performs inspections on all apartments, with the most recent happening last week.

“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the newspaper. “How could that not have been found?”

In September, there were 44 reports of child abuse/neglect by abandonment in Texas, 12 of them in Houston, according to the Department of Family and Protective Services.