Who really killed Erin Maxwell?

The court last week told us it was Alan Jones, her 28-year-old step-brother. The prosecutor told us he choked to death the 11-year-old in a stinking hovel they called home in Oswego County.

The dead child's parents Lynn and Lindsey Maxwell earlier were convicted of endangering the girl because of the wretched conditions in which she was compelled to live -- a deplorable affair littered with piles of cat feces.

The prosecutor declined to tell the court the circumstances surrounding her death. So there's no motive in the court record. However her death certificate notes the presence of sexual trauma.

Officials at the school she attended reported that her clothes smelled and she was seen eating from cafeteria trash cans.

The Oswego County Department of Social Services knew about the disgusting living conditions in the house, but did nothing to remove Erin, most likely because the degree of squalor found in the house was not so unusual for the rural poor of Upstate.

So, Erin lived out her short life amid the odor of cat droppings, sleeping in a room that locked from the outside.

Who should have known? Who should have helped? How could this have been prevented?

There's a hopelessness that emanates from this horrid event. How could you tell? How could anyone be positive that something was amiss? All good questions.

In photographs released to the press we see Erin as a smiling, normal appearing little girl. In one photo she's laughing, waving energetically at the photographer. She hardly appears to be a victim of abuse or deprivation. But then, the legacy photographs of this cute little girl were taken when she was away from home.

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