Surviving child says mom often kept kids in closet

Ebyan Farah (photo from Wednesday court appearance)

Jeremy Brilliant/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - The mother accused of neglect for locking her five children in a bedroom closet pleaded not guilty Thursday. Two of those children died.

Dozens of members of the local Somali community were in court to hear about the eight felony charges that have been filed against 28-year-old Ebyan Farah in connection to the deaths of two of her children, ages 3 and 4. Charges include criminal confinement and neglect resulting in death.

"We did not charge murder, so this is not an intentional killing," said David Wyser, Marion County deputy prosecutor.

"We are one community but we have nothing to say," said a man who attended the hearing. "Nothing to say," he added. "We support her but we have nothing to say to you."

Farah's defense attorneys are also saying very little. They requested a gag order prohibiting anyone connected to the case to speak publicly about it.

"I just think it's important that none of the facts are released until the jury gets an opportunity to hear what the actual evidence is," said Jackie Butler, Farah's attorney.

The judge has yet to make a decision on that request.

Police say the children died after being crammed into a two-by-six foot closet in the family's southwest side apartment. The doors were pinned shut by two beds.

According to court documents, Farah locked her children in the closet at 6:00 am Sunday morning and didn't get them out for more than 10 hours at 4:20 in the afternoon. That entire time they had no food, water or adequate ventilation.

After finding the dead children, Ebyan Farah told her uncle, "I did something wrong," and then began crying.

But according to her seven-year-old daughter who survived the ordeal, this was not a one-time event. She told a social worker her mother "often placed her and her brothers and sisters in the closet for punishment or when she needed to cook."

The judge ordered that Farah have no contact with her three surviving children, who are currently in foster care.

The children's father has been in Kenya for the past month. He returned to the United States after the deaths. He will not face charges in the case.

Prosecutors now tell Eyewitness News that only four children were in the closet at the time of the incident, not five as was originally believed.

Authorities believed that a two-year-old was in the closet but now say the child was not in the closet. They are not sure where the two-year-old was when the other children were found.

See the probable cause affidavit here.

Farah attorney statement

Ebyan Farah's attorneys issued the following statement on her behalf Wednesday:

"Ebyan Farah will have no public comment in this matter, except to say she is devastated by her children's tragic deaths. She will avail herself of the criminal justice system.

Ebyan Farah hopes the media will be sensitive to the Somali community's sense of privacy and will not intrude in an effort to provide sensationalism in a manner that will ensure Ebyan Farah cannot receive a fair trial, not only in Marion County, but in the state of Indiana.

The family of Ebyan Farah is devastated and shocked by this tragedy. Ebyan Farah's husband, uncles, friends, and the community at large would like the media to respect their privacy."

Mohamed Hersi, Ebyan Farah's uncle, said, "We are a tight community and we believe with God's help that we will face this tragedy with strength and faith."

The father of the children issued the following statement through an attorney:

"The family of Bursan Hassan respectfully requests its privacy be respected during this difficult time of grieving and loss. We decline any additional comment. Prayers for all family members are appreciated. Thank you." - John M. Schwartz, attorney for Bursan Hassan