A young military family's move into military housing last fall resulted in serious illness, a court-martial hearing, and a job transfer. According to this story published by WRDW-TV in Augusta, Georgia:
Kourtney Shelton and her family just want to raise their children in a safe place. They came to Augusta last October, excited about where life's journey was taking them—but they never expected it would take a dark turn.
Kourtney Shelton has been living in Augusta for about seven months, and as she'll be the first to tell you, some of it hasn't been pleasant. "The last few months have just been horrible," Kourtney says.
Kourtney, her army husband, and their two children moved into military housing on Fort Gordon. For the first few weeks, she says, her family stayed sick.
"When we were out of the home we all felt better, so we started to think that maybe there was something going on inside our home," describes Kourtney.
It wasn't until they spotted spots on their walls and air conditioning vents that they started to get worried. "We had no idea at the time how big the problem was or anything," says Kourtney.
The family snapped pictures of the home. In them, you can see the A/C vent from the outside, and then from the inside. You can also see the air duct. In other places in the home you see paint peeling off the walls and water stains dripping from the breaker box. The family believes some of the pictures show mold. Kourtney says, "The pictures we took from our home are just disgusting."
Several months after moving in, 6-month-old Evelyn stopped breathing. "That was by far the most scary and most traumatizing moment of my life," says Kourtney.
Multiple doctors treated Evelyn, but they did not agree on exactly what caused her to stop breathing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mold exposure can cause respiratory problems in kids and adults.
"I went and met with the housing manager and I said, 'We have a big problem here,'" describes Kourtney.
Like many military bases, Fort Gordon's on-post housing is contracted out to Balfour Beatty, a British construction company that builds and maintains homes like the Sheltons' for the U.S. Government.
"Perhaps it's ignorance, I don't know at that time I truly believed that the housing company would have been like...'Oh I'm so sorry, let's make this right, let's make the situation better. Like wow, we really failed your family, let's look into this and move on, let's help make things better.' That was not at all what happened," explains Kourtney.
Balfour Beatty says they did do a visual inspection and took moisture readings. In a statement Balfour Beatty says: "Our readings did not indicate any problems typically associated with excessive moisture or mold growth."
Balfour Beatty agreed to have the air ducts cleaned, the bathroom fans replaced, and some drywall repaired, but the source of moisture was never located. Kourtney and her family eventually moved off-post.
Because of an encounter with Balfour Beatty housing managers, Kourtney's husband was offered an Article 15 punishment. Instead he requested a court-martial hearing.
Last week SPC Shelton was found guilty and demoted by two ranks. However, the judge deemed the unit to have retaliated illegally against SPC Shelton and issued a sentencing credit. SPC Shelton is in the process of transferring to a new base, where the story will continue to unfold. In regard to his sentence, SPC Shelton says:
Guilty... guilty of choosing the safety and well-being of my family over the importance of being quiet when someone else is talking. I am accepting my punishment with my head held high, knowing that I was forced to take the moral right vs. the legal wrong. It is now time to get back to focusing on what is most important to me, to being a soldier, to being the best Papa I can be to my little ones, and the best husband I can be to the woman who inspires me and stands by me through it all.
Part 1 of WRDW-TV's special investigative report can be found here.