GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A judge has ordered two Michigan parents to stand trial for murder in the death of their malnourished 10-month-old daughter, citing the “callousness” of the father’s 911 call in which he referred to the child as “dead as a door knob.”
Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari were charged in August with murder and first-degree child abuse after their daughter, Mary, was found unresponsive in their Solon Township home. An autopsy found she died of malnutrition and dehydration due to neglect. Mary weighed only 8 pounds (3.63 kilograms).
“She looked like a hundred-year-old baby. All skin and bones,” said Assistant Prosecutor Kim Richardson.
Judge Sara Smolenski on Wednesday ordered Welch and Fusari to stand trial.
“The skeletal-like posture of the child, in my opinion, speaks volumes, for how long the baby was not cared for properly,” Smolenski said.
Smolenski said she was struck by Welch’s statement to a dispatcher where he describes Mary as “dead as a door knob.” Welch also informed the dispatcher that he’d called his attorney about 90 minutes prior to calling 911 because he was unsure of what to do.
Defense lawyers argued that the parents thought their child was skinny, but not sickly and didn’t intentionally or knowingly cause harm.
“They were breastfeeding the child,” said defense attorney Lesley Kranenberg. “These two young people are not nutritionists. They are not dietitians.”
Kranenberg said there were empty baby food jars in the house, which shows that the parents were feeding the child. She said the medical examiner jumped to conclusions on the cause of death.
Smolenski said the damage was obvious and that the girl’s death “is as horrific as it gets.”
“I want to reiterate the fact that the baby did not die because of one missed meal. This is weeks and weeks,” Smolenski said. “This isn’t about being very skinny, this is about being dead.”