tampabay.com

35-pound boy begs neighbor for food

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published June 12, 2007


WEST PALM BEACH - A 10-year-old boy who weighed just 35 pounds when he knocked on a neighbor's door pleading for food was being treated Monday for malnutrition, while his mother was held on child neglect charges, police said.

The Port St. Lucie boy, whose name was not released, knocked on the woman's door Saturday evening, said police Officer Robert Vega. The average weight for a 10-year-old boy is about 85 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"He was extremely dirty, filthy, hair was matted. He looked like he was undernourished and extremely thin, and he was begging her for food, " Vega said Monday.

The woman gave the boy a peanut butter sandwich and juice, then called authorities.

His mother, Kelleen Deon Murray-Auguste, 37, was being held Monday on $150, 000 bail, said St. Lucie County Sheriff's spokesman Mark Weinberg. A judge appointed a public defender but it was not immediately clear if an attorney had been assigned.

Murray-Auguste told authorities the boy had been living with his father in Haiti until about a month ago, when the father dropped him off in Florida and left.

"She says he was brought to her home in that condition, " Vega said.

The woman said she tried to feed him but he couldn't keep any food down. She did not seek medical treatment because she didn't have health insurance, Vega said. Authorities couldn't confirm the mother's story and are currently seeking the father, whose name has not been released.

The child is now recovering in state care.

"He's doing better now. They're just trying to provide him the nutrients he's been lacking for so long, " Vega said. "Who knows how long it could have been before he got the help he needed. I think he's pretty lucky."

Vega said that as authorities were investigating the case, Murray-Auguste called 911 to report her child was missing.

The woman has nine children ranging in age from 2 to 23 and is pregnant, he said. The Florida Department of Children and Families took custody of seven underage children ages 2 to 16, including the 10-year-old boy, he said.

He said none of the children except the 10-year-old showed signs of malnutrition and neglect.