An Indiana couple is facing murder charges in the death of their 22-month-old daughter. Police in Lakeland, Fla. say a baby found starved to death was left alone in a car while her parents dined inside a local all-you-can-eat buffet. The suspects say it was an accident, but prosecutors say this is more than a simple case of child neglect and abuse; a baby died from starvation while the caregivers feasted, citing a Gulf News report.
Investigators in Polk County say Ruby Stephens, 23, and Roy Stephens, 48 (shown here in booking photo), residents of Indiana, were visiting relatives at the time baby Betsey died outside a Golden Corral restaurant on December 23. There, they met with family members to dine and socialize for the holidays. All the while, the child sat in her child seat — alone and unsupervised.
At some point, the child’s mother went outside to retrieve the baby, but it was too late; she was found dead. Police and medical workers arrived on the scene after the parents made a frantic 911 call. Sadly, the child was pronounced dead a short time later at a nearby Florida hospital. According to Mike Link, assistant chief of Lakeland Police, the baby starved to death and was found in bad shape, based on photographs taken of her lifeless body.
“She suffered tremendously over the 22 days that she was alive.”
A medical examiner conducted an autopsy and reported the infant’s weight at the time of death was only 4 pounds. Moreover, information sourced suggested the baby lost over 2 pounds since birth. To illustrate her fragile condition at the time she died, a newborn typically weighs between 5.5 pounds and 10 pounds. Average weight is about 7.5 pounds, according to BabyCenter.
The death report revealed that the baby had not had any form of nourishment for as long as seven hours before she was found starved to death in the car; there were signs of dehydration.
Initially, the child’s mom said she was breastfeeding the baby frequently during their drive from Indiana. However, when confronted with the results of the postmortem report, she changed her story to police. Stephens claimed that heavy traffic prevented them from pulling over to grab a bite to eat.
The baby who starved to death was found to have long-standing medical problems. The mother said she missed a recent appointment, but intended to take the child in to see a doctor when she discovered that her feet were colder than usual.
Evidently, the woman’s husband, who was arrested and charged with murder as well, is not the baby’s biological father, and has not taken part in its life since birth. Two other children, ages 1 and 2, traveled with the arrested couple and the baby found dead of starvation. They have been placed in protective custody, pending other arrangements.