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Calling it the "worst case" of abuse a detective had ever seen, the King County Sheriff's Office arrested a Carnation couple last Friday on suspicion of criminal mistreatment after police found their 14-year-old daughter emaciated, dehydrated and suffering from severe malnutrition.
Police released news of the arrest this morning, adding that the case was sent to the prosecutor's office last week for a decision about whether charges will be filed.
The investigation began Aug. 13, when a sheriff's deputy went to the house on a welfare check after a call from Child Protective Services (CPS), police said. A neighbor had called CPS "after hearing screaming coming from the house the night before," according to a news release.
Police say the mother, 44, and father, 43, a software engineer, had starved the girl, who weighed only 48 pounds and was 4-foot-7. Police described her as resembling a 7- or 8-year-old.
She was admitted to Seattle Children's Hospital for treatment of severe malnutrition, and she was treated there for two weeks.
Her 12-year-old brother appeared to not have been treated as badly; he was a normal height and weight. However, neither child was enrolled in school, said Sgt. John Urquhart.
The lead detective on the case, who has been with the special-assault unit for 16 years, said "he's never seen a case of abuse this bad," Urquhart said.
According to police, the girl said her mother disciplined her by "restricting her water intake" to about a half of a small Dixie cup per day.
The girl and her brother "were forced to sleep on the floor in the same room as their parents, and a heavy dresser was pushed in front of the door to keep her from sneaking out and getting water."
The girl was caught one night sneaking out of her own room to drink water from the toilet, according to police. For food, she was mostly given toast.
The mother, who did not work outside the home, also directly monitored her daughter's showers and bathroom habits "to keep her from surreptitiously drinking water," police said. Showers were restricted to every two or three weeks.
The girl told police that her mother once duct-taped her hands behind her back and dunked her head in the toilet to discipline her.
Dictors evaluated the girl's teeth and found all of them to be eroded and chipped. She told investigators they hurt when she eats, and she recently broke a tooth while eating celery.
Doctors extracted six of her teeth under general anesthesia and capped the rest. They said the extreme dental erosion was "likely due to the shutdown of her salivary function due to extreme dehydration over an extended period of time," according to police.
Doctors found she has not gained weight since age 9.
Detectives served a search warrant on the residence and found the girl's room had a double deadbolt on the door, confirming that she was locked in the room at times during the day, police said. They also collected evidence that the family had health insurance and the girl's little brother had seen a doctor in the past few years. The family's two dogs were in good health and had recent trips to a veterinary clinic.
The girl and her brother are in foster care and doing well, Urquhart said.
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