Huntsville toddler who died, sibling hospitalized were undernourished, police say

Updated: Jul. 24, 2019 at 11:11 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Huntsville police have released new information in a deadly child abuse case.

A 3-year-old died Tuesday and his 4-year-old brother was hospitalized. The children were “very undernourished” to the point where they needed medical attention, according to Captain Mike Izzo, who oversees HPD’s Criminal Investigative Division.

Police responded to a home on Maple Ridge Boulevard, off Balch Road, Tuesday afternoon after receiving a call about an unresponsive 3-year-old child. Paramedics were unable to revive the little boy and he passed away.

His 4-year-old brother is in critical but stable condition at the hospital, according to police.

Investigators say the 3-year-old’s cause of death will be released after an autopsy is completed.

Neither child had obvious signs of trauma or visible injuries on the scene, Huntsville police said in a press release Wednesday.

The case is considered a death investigation.

The suspects are the children’s biological parents, Ashley Elizabeth Catron, 36, and Frederick Antony Frink, 34. Both are charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse based on probable cause from the investigation.

A 17-year-old male in the home was released to other family members.

“We are waiting on medical and forensic reports. Once all of the information and evidence is gathered, we will be working with the Madison County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the suspects to the fullest extent of the law for any offenses committed," said Captain Izzo stated.

Information and evidence are still being gathered as HPD continues to build its case against this couple.

The tragic case has stunned family members and neighbors.

“He’s a good dad. He loves his kids. He loves that baby,” said Ike Bailey, a relative, about the victims’ father, Frederick Frink.

“It’s a very quiet neighborhood. I’m very surprised to hear about this information. Having children of my own, this comes as an extreme shock and disappointment. It’s very sad to hear,” added Benjamin Johnson, who used to live next to the family.

Some neighbors say they didn't even realize children lived in the home.

Pam Clasgens, Community Awareness & Prevention Director at the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC), says if you have a concern about a child’s safety, it’s important to report it to the Department of Human Resources (DHR).

“DHR has the people who are trained to investigate to figure what’s going on and they have the authority to look into the situation. They’re the people who can help get the child the help they need and that family so the child is no longer in danger and so that they’re safe,” she explained.

Sometimes, people are reluctant to make a report because they’re not sure if something is really going on, or they think the child will immediately get removed from their home.

“You’re not making an accusation, what you’re requesting is a professional service to be done,” Clasgens said. “Perhaps nothing is going on, but if there is something going on, the child gets the help they need and you know that you were the person who helped make that happen.”

For cases of child sex abuse or serious physical abuse, or if a child has witnessed a homicide or domestic violence, the staff at NCAC works with DHR and law enforcement on the case, conducting forensic interviews and providing therapy and resources.

NCAC has a case management service for those who have concerns about their child. They also offer a six-week parenting class. It’s open to anyone in the community.

There’s a Healthy Families program for young parents with young children, with home visitation. Partnership in Parenting is for couples struggling to raise their child together. They might not be getting along or live together.

“That’s what we’re here to do is help people raise their kids so that they’re healthy and safe,” Clasgens added.

Police say there are no signs of trauma or visible injuries to the 4-year-old, but health professionals saidthe damage from undernourishment to a child can found underneath the skin.

“All of your activities and metabolism, everything just goes way down, so you’re essentially doing just enough to satisfy what calories you’re getting," said Dr. Tim Howard, a family doctor.

Howard said the child’s age leaves him especially vulnerable.

“They don’t have the surface area or any of that to be able to withstand something like that with an adult, so their likelihood of succumbing to starvation or undernourishment is going to be much greater,” he said.

“His stomach is shrunken, and so his stomach can not hold a whole lot at one time," said dietitian Bekah DeWitt.

“The reactions would be that he could have heart problems or it could ultimately end up in death if he’s not careful.”

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