A 10-month old girl died of malnutrition and dehydration after her Christian parents allegedly refused to seek medical help for religious reasons, fear of child services and a lack of trust in medical services.
Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari, both 27, have been charged with felony murder and first-degree child abuse in the death of their daughter, Mary.
Welch called the emergency services last week and the child was not breathing when deputies arrived at their home in Michigan's Solon Township, which sits to the north of Grand Rapids, the Kent County sheriff’s office said.
The child was found with sunken eyes and cheeks and a lack of pulse, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy ruled the cause of death was malnutrition and dehydration due to neglect by adult caregivers.
The couple admitted their daughter had been skinny and underweight for at least a month, an affidavit alleged.
They did not seek medical help for religious reasons, fear of having Child Protective Services called and a lack of trust in medical services,” according to court records.
Footage taken in Kent County Court shows their shocked reaction as the judge tells them they could face life in prison without parole, if convicted of felony murder.
Welch’s jaw fell open and Fusari sobs as the judge reads out the charges.
The pair, have two older children together, aged two and four, are being held without bond and court records do not list lawyers who can speak on their behalf.
Child Protective Services have filed a neglect case against the parents involving their two eldest children.
Welch has posted about Child Protective Services, a distrust of doctors and religious beliefs on Facebook. He called doctors “priesthoods of the medical cult” and spoke in one video post about refusing to get his children vaccinated.
“The righteous shall live by faith. It’s God who is sovereign over disease and those sorts of things and, of course, ultimately deaths,” he said.
The couple return to court on 20 August and could face life in prison without parole if convicted of felony murder.