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Texas Couple Faces Murder Charges In 4-Year-Old's Death

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DURHAM, N.C. — A Texas man and his wife face felony child abuse and murder charges after Durham police found an unresponsive, badly malnourished 4-year-old boy in the couple's vehicle Wednesday morning.

Investigators say Richard Dowen, 32, flagged down a deputy sheriff on South Miami Boulevard near Interstate 40 around 8:20 a.m. Wednesday.

"He came running out to me saying he needed to get to a hospital," said Deputy R.T. Tonietta, of the Durham County Sheriff's Office.

Tonietta said when he looked in the back of the tractor-trailer Dowen was driving, he saw the child's mother, Amber Dowen, 20, holding the boy, who was wrapped in a towel.

"He was very small and you could see all his bones," Tonietta said. "He looked as if he was a baby -- very small."

The boy, according to investigators, appeared to be severely malnourished and severely dehydrated. In comparison to an average 4-year-old, who weighs about 40 pounds, the boy Tonietta found weighed only 12 pounds.

The boy died at Duke University Medical Center Thursday morning. Police said the boy had bruises on his head and marks on his chest. Investigators believe the abuse had lasted for several months.

Investigators say Amber Dowen cursed at them and spat at them, but she and her husband never explained how their little boy wasted away to nearly nothing.

Detective Tony Gill, who is working on the investigation, said the case has made an impact on the whole police department.

"You feel bad for the kid," Gill said. "You can't imagine what he's going through. It was something I've never seen before, something I'll never forget."

Investigators said the couple also has a 15-month-old girl, who is now in the custody of Durham County Social Services. They say she appears to be healthy.

Both Richard Dowen and Amber Dowen are currently in the Durham County Jail without bond. They are expected to make their first appearance in court Friday.


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