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Texas Couple Pleads Guilty to Fatally Starving Son

Posted September 17, 2007

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— A Texas couple accused of starving their 4-year-old child pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder and felony child abuse.

Richard Dowen, 34, was sentenced to at least 26 years in prison. His wife, Amber Dowen, 22, faces 17 to 24 years in prison when she is sentenced Dec. 4.

Last week, both rejected a deal that would have spared them a life sentence for the 2005 death of Randy Dowen. If they continued to spurn the plea deal, prosecutors said they would have started jury selection in Richard Dowen's trial Monday. Amber Dowen would have gone on trial next week.

Authorities said Richard Dowen was making a freight delivery in Durham when he waved down a sheriff's deputy along Miami Boulevard in August 2005, asking for help in getting the child to a hospital.

The pair, from Riverside, Texas, told the deputy their son was sick, but authorities said there were marks on the boy's body and bruises on his head.

Randy Dowen died at Duke University Hospital. An autopsy showed he weighed 19 pounds, which is about half the weight of an average child of that age.

Officers said the couple's 15-month-old daughter, who was also in the tractor-trailer, appeared healthy. She is now in the custody of her maternal grandmother, prosecutors said.