Investigators also charged Richard Dowen, 32, and Amber Dowen, 20, both of Riverside, Texas, with felony child abuse. They were being held under $1 million bond each with their first court date set for Sept. 1.
The child, who is Amber Dowen's son, was in critical condition at Duke University Hospital, Durham police said.
Police said Richard Dowen flagged down a deputy sheriff near Interstate 40 about 8:20 a.m. Wednesday. He told the deputy that he needed to get his stepson to a hospital because he was unresponsive.
Officers called for paramedics when they found the child - inside the tractor-trailer Dowen was driving - appearing to be severely malnourished and dehydrated, police said.
A healthy 15-month-old girl who also was in the tractor-trailer now is in the custody of the Durham County Department of Social Services, police said in a news release.
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