Investigators in Pennsylvania said a mother accused of starving and beating her 7-year-old son told officials at his school not to feed the boy breakfast.
According to police, during the 2012-2013 school year, the mother told teachers at the school in Hempfield Township that her son had at a large breakfast at home and would “overeat if he was fed again.”
Pittsburgh TV station WPXI has also learned that school officials contacted Children and Youth Services after the boy was found stealing food out of the garbage and hoarding food in his socks and shoes.
The boy’s mother, 28-year-old Mary C. Rader, and the boy’s grandparents who lived with them, 58-year-old Dennis C. Beighley and 47-year-old Deana Beighley, are facing multiple charges in the case, including conspiracy to commit murder.
The child was found in June at the family’s home in Greenville, Pennsylvania, weighing just 25 pounds.
“He looked like a Holocaust victim,” said Mercer County Detective John J. Piatek, who specializes in child abuse cases. “He had been beaten with a belt every time he tried to get food. He had three abscessed teeth and weighed 20 pounds when he was taken to Children's Hospital. The starvation could have killed him. The abscessed teeth could have killed him.”
Their sole motive, Piatek said, seems to have been that they disliked the child.
According to police, Mary Rader decided to homeschool the 7-year-old last year and he was not allowed outside the house except to the back porch, where he would sometimes eat the bugs he caught. He was fed small amounts of tuna and eggs, and suffered beatings with a belt -- particularly when he sneaked food, usually peanut butter and bread, police said.
When a neighbor finally did see him on June 6, she called to report "what she said appeared to be a walking skeleton," county welfare worker Kendra Manning said during a recent hearing.
District Judge Brian Arthur was so shocked by pictures presented in court and by medical reports of the boy's condition after he was removed from the family's Greenville home in June that the judge ordered the three defendants jailed and set bail at $100,000 each.