Parents charged after son dies during month of fasting to get 'blessing from God'
REEDSBURG, WI (WKOW/CNN) – The parents of a 15-year-old boy face felony child neglect charges after their son died of starvation while the family was fasting in an alleged religious practice.
The teenager's father, 49-year-old Kehinde Omosebi, appeared in court Tuesday, where he was officially charged with two counts of neglecting a child. His wife, 48-year-old Titilayo Omosebi, did not appear in court but has been arrested.
A criminal complaint filed Tuesday claims Kehinde Omosebi failed to provide food for his 15-year-old and 11-year-old sons. The father went to the police station Monday to report the 15-year-old, Ayanfe Omosebi, had died.
Police officers reporting to the family’s home described the 15-year-old's body as extremely emaciated. They say there was no food or eating utensils in the home.
The 11-year-old boy was in poor health when police arrived. He was emaciated and had a hard time walking and talking, police say. The criminal complaint states he had to be carried out of his bedroom because he was unable to walk on his own.
Doctors say the boy will have to stay in the hospital for an extended time as he is treated and returns to eating regularly.
Authorities say there was no electricity in the family home, and the only furniture they found were four metal chairs in the living room, all facing one another.
There were also padlocks placed on the doors on the inside of the house in such a way "someone on the inside would be confined to the home and unable to leave," according to court records.
Kehinde Omosebi claimed the family was part of a religious group affiliated with Cornerstone Reformation Ministries. Police say they can find no records supporting the claim.
The 49-year-old told police the family had begun fasting July 17 in order to receive a "blessing from God" to move to Atlanta.
According to the criminal complaint, the 15-year-old died Aug. 31, the day Kehinde Omosebi said the fasting was supposed to end. The family reportedly prayed for two days per their religious beliefs before the father reported his son’s death.
The father allegedly told police the family had fasted with the children before but "not for this long."
Officers say they found a handwritten note addressed to county lawyers from the 11-year-old which included the statements, "The hunger is too much. Please help me now so I may eat. I can’t continue in such a life with no food."
The letter referenced it had been five days since he and his family had eaten anything.
Officers had contact with all four family members May 21 when they were putting religious pamphlets on cars in a grocery store parking lot, according to Reedsburg Police Chief Timothy Becker.
Becker says the children appeared in good health at the time.