The door at 4663 Londonderry Drive in the Manchester Village Apartments has become a shrine to two children who died there. Their three siblings are in good condition, police say. / Matt Detrich / The Star
(Indianapolis Star) -- The closet was 6 feet long and 2 feet wide.
Inside was neither food nor water -- and no light, either. When the door was shut, total darkness.
Inside were crammed five children -- the oldest 7, the youngest 1.
And there was no way out.
Police say the children's mother, Ebyan Farah, 28, stacked not one but two beds against the door, effectively sealing it shut.
Then she walked away, leaving the home to visit a friend.
Police say she didn't return home until 10 hours later. When she opened the closet door, two of the children -- Zakariya Farah, 3, and his sister, 5-year-old Zuhur Farah -- were "stiff and unresponsive," in police parlance. Their precise time of death is unknown.
"One of the most inhumane things I've ever seen in 28 years on the job," said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Lt. Jeff Duhamell. "They were crunched in there on top of each other with no water or food in 80-degree heat."
Police investigators said Farah related the details to them during an interview. But the all-important "why?" remained unclear Tuesday. Police said only that Farah told them she was "not in her right mind."
Friends and neighbors in the Manchester Village apartments on Indianapolis' Southwestside gasped at the news.
"I can't even imagine what was going on in her mind," Nicole Felt said.
Helen Safewright said, "I think she'd had to have lost her mind."
The lead-up to the emergency call for help, placed from the apartment at 8:34 p.m. Sunday, embodied the strangeness of the circumstances. A neighbor, Ahmed Jama, whose wife had visited with Farah that day, was concerned that Farah was behaving "strangely," according to a police report, which did not elaborate except to say she would not allow anyone into her apartment.
Jama telephoned Farah's uncle, Mohammad Hersi, who came right over. Peering through the apartment door, Hersi saw what looked to him like a dead child lying on the couch.
Farah reportedly was berserk. "She didn't look normal. She was not the woman we knew," Hersi said. He had to restrain her so that Jama could converse with the 911 operator.
On that 911 call, Jama tells the operator he is with "a mother who has five babies, and I believe one of them already dead."
"You believe one of them is what?"
Police said the likely cause was suffocation, but the coroner will check the children's blood levels to determine how they were asphyxiated.
It's possible, too, they might have died from carbon dioxide poisoning by breathing in exhaled air in a confined space. Called hypercapnia, the condition is most common in mine shafts and tunnels.
Zakariya and Zuhur also could have died of positional asphyxiation. They might have been positioned so that pressure on their abdomens or chests prevented them from getting enough air.
Department of Child Services spokeswoman Ann Houseworth said the other three children were in good physical condition and in protective custody.
Farah's husband and the children's father, Burhan Hassan, has worked for several years as a cabdriver, shuttling travelers to and from Indianapolis International Airport.
But he has been visiting family in Africa for the past month or longer, fellow cabdrivers said.
The Farah/Hassans are among a half-dozen families from Somalia living in the apartment complex. The family has lived in their three-bedroom, two-story place for at least three years, neighbors said.
Farah, who is being held in the Marion County Jail on $200,000 bond, refused a request for an interview, said Julio Fernandez, a sheriff's spokesman.
The Marion County prosecutor's office will ask for a 72-hour extension to file formal charges at a 9 a.m. hearing today in Marion Superior Court.
A probable cause affidavit that IMPD Detective Gregory "Scott" Scheid filed with the court to secure the extension recaps what he wrote in his police report.
Scheid said one of the children was found on the living room couch and one was on the floor.