Caretaker Charged With Starving Handicapped Boy
Posted October 2, 2006 5:29 a.m. EDT
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A Cumberland County woman was charged Monday with starving a handicapped child in her care, authorities said.
Stephanie Lee Williams, 35, of 107 Scarborough St. in Spring Lake, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, felony child abuse and five counts of contributing to a juvenile being neglected. She is being held in the Cumberland County Detention Center on a $520,000 bond.
Authorities said Williams withheld food and essential services from a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who had been left in her care for the past year.
"As with any child, if you have an infant and you don't feed the child, the child dies, (and) then you're responsible for their death," said Sgt. Lynette Hodges, of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. "Had this child died, this would have been a charge of first-degree murder."
The boy weighs about 32 pounds, which is about 22 pounds below the normal weight for a child in his condition, authorities said. A medical expert also confirmed the child, who is confined to a bed or wheelcahir, had marks that were consistent with rodent bites.
Authorities said evidence shows the boy was left stationary for long periods of time and suffered from nutritional deprivation.
"I loved him," was all Wiliams said Monday when questioned about the boy's condition.
Neighbors called Williams "Mom" because of the way she cared for children in the area.
"She has brought people up from dirt and got them on their feet, got them to go to college, got them into their own places," said a woman who identified herself only as "Connie."
She and other neighbors said they couldn't believe that Williams starved the boy.
"I have been at that house when Mom has fed him," she said.
Investigators said the boy wasn't enrolled in school this year. Last year, he was fed and received therapy while at school, authorities said.
The boy was placed on a respirator on Sept. 12 after being transported to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. He has responded well to treatment and is improving, authorities said.
Williams also had four children of her own living in the home. But authorities said they have been removed from the home and placed in foster care because of hazardous and unsanitary living conditions.