‘(They left) their son to starve to death’: Couple accused of punishing boy by withholding food until he died

Police charged an Illinois couple with murder after they allegedly punished their 6-year-old by letting him die as a result of malnutrition, according to People.

Investigators said the child weighed 17 pounds when he died, documents from the Jersey County, Illinois, State’s Attorney obtained by People revealed. The child passed away at a Jerseyville, Illinois, hospital.

Officers said in a statement the boy and another child, a 7-year-old, were both “deprived of food by their father and stepmother as a form of punishment.” The two children reportedly lived with their parents, along with five other siblings.

“(They left) their son to starve to death,” the indictment read. “Such knowing actions and inactions constituted severe abuse and neglect.”

Investigators charged the father, Michael Roberts, and the stepmother, Georgena Roberts, both 42, with murder. The couple was also charged with two counts each of endangering the life and health of a child; one count for each child.

Charging documents show, starting in December 2015, the couple “knowingly and intentionally caused [the 6-year-old] to become extremely malnourished, leaving the said 6-year-old child … to starve to death.”

The boy’s cause of death was caused by “failure to thrive due to ‘extreme malnourishment,’” a pathologist determined, according to the police statement.

The parents are each being held on a $500,000 bail. The remaining children are now in protective custody.

A concerned citizen made a hotline call to the state agency in January of 2016, and reported that there was not enough food in the home. The call sparked an investigation, according to a DCFS statement, the Belleville News-Democrat reported. Yet, after a doctor diagnosed the little boy with a medical condition, DCFS closed the case.

After a pediatric specialist concluded that the now-deceased child’s weight was a result of a medical condition, the investigation was closed as unfounded.”

It’s still unclear what medical diagnosis the boy was given. A call to the agency was not immediately returned.

[Feature Photo: Jersey County State’s Attorney]