GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The parents of a 10-month-old Michigan girl who died of malnutrition and dehydration didn't seek medical help because it's "just as dangerous as not going," the father said.
Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari were charged Monday with felony murder and first-degree child abuse after their daughter, Mary, was found unresponsive in their Solon Township home. An autopsy determined the cause of death as malnutrition and dehydration due to neglect by adult caregivers.
Welch told WOOD-TV that he didn't know Mary was ill, despite an affidavit saying the 27-year-olds admitted she had been underweight for a month. He said his daughter's autopsy was conducted "lazily" and that he believes something else caused Mary's death.
"I believe I am being unfairly charged, being made an example of for my very strong faith," Welch said.
He said he cared for his children without the aid of a doctor because of his religious beliefs. The father didn't define his religion.
Court documents obtained by the Grand Rapids Press show two of the couple's three children had never been to a licensed medical doctor.
"Mr. Welch stated that doctors were untrustworthy and said doctors forged documents in 2014 against him and (4-year-old)," Child Protective Services investigators wrote in a petition to remove the couple's two older children from their care. The agency had contacted the family in 2014 after THC was found in their eldest child's system at birth. Court records don't show a case on the incident.
Investigators said Welch was responsible for the baby's care on Aug. 1, the day before Mary died. Fusari had left for work in the afternoon and returned late in the evening. Welch said the baby slept the entire time that Fusari was gone.
"Mr. Welch never gave Mary food, water or a diaper change during this time," Child Protective Services officials wrote.
Welch told the television station that the couple fed Mary.
"We were feeding her chicken, potatoes, apples, cheese. We were giving her the good stuff," Welch said. "She died. It's a tragedy. . The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh."