Prosecutor: Madison County couple wasn’t feeding their kids
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Madison County District Attorney’s Office is providing new insight into a shocking child death investigation being worked by Huntsville police.
A 3-year-old boy died and his 4-year-old brother remains in the hospital. Their parents are in jail and prosecutors are addressing just how serious the child abuse charges are.
Huntsville police say the boys were very undernourished, but prosecutors say the nature of the charges the siblings’ parents face go beyond that.
For them to be facing aggravated child abuse charges, things were much worse in the family’s home, according to Tim Douthit, Madison County assistant district attorney, who will be handling the case.
This week, two brothers were pulled from a home on Maple Ridge Boulevard off Balch Road in HPD’s jurisdiction. One of the children passed away and the other is hospitalized. Their parents, Ashley Catron and Frederick Frink, are charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse.
"We're not going to prosecute someone whose kids are undernourished, or who are way too skinny. If you're getting prosecuted, it's because you are not feeding that child. They are medically malnourished. And really, in America and Madison County today, there's no excuse for that. There are food banks, programs through the government and private charity. Even if you can't eat, your children will be fed if you're at all trying to feed them," Douthit explained.
He says in these kinds of cases, it’s not uncommon to hear that neighbors didn’t even know children lived in the home, which is what residents said about the family involved.
“At some point, the child becomes too weak to do any of the things that a normal child would do and then if not your shame, your self preservation kicks in and you’re not going to let that kid go out when their arms are looking anorexic when they’re two or three years old,” Douthit said.
Aggravated child abuse of a child less than 6 years old is a Class A Felony. It is the same level as murder or forcible rape. The punishment is 10 years to life in prison.
“The law doesn’t require you to be a good parent, just be a parent. Even bad parents feed their children, even bad parents do the minimum necessary to sustain life. I don’t care whether you’re a good parent or not and I don’t care how your kid turns out, but until they turn 18 and certainly when they’re unable to fend for themselves, they are your responsibility. You have to take care of them,” Douthit stated.
According to authorities, the 4-year-old victim is still in the hospital. The boys' parents are being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.
Jail officials anticipated felony warrants being served on them Thursday and their 72 hour hearing happening Friday.
"As a prosecutor, as a citizen, as a father, I can't hardly think of anything worse than just letting your child waste away under your care, watching them day in and day out as you go to work and about your daily life and just seeing them waste away to the point of death," Douthit added.
He went on to explain the difference between child abuse and aggravated child abuse. Child abuse is when someone tortures, cruelly beats, or willfully maltreats anyone under 18.
Aggravated child abuse is when you abuse a child repeatedly or if you abuse a child in violation of a court order and the most common- if you abuse a child and it results in serious physical injury that creates a substantial likelihood of death or the protracted impairment of bodily function.
As a general rule, there are two kinds of people who are charged with aggravated child abuse, according to Douthit.
The more traditional child abusers beat their child over and over again and at some point, they break enough bones that the police get involved. Those people typically have a history with law enforcement, DHR or Child Protective Services.
The other kind is abuse by omission.
"The kid breaks their leg and they don't take them to the hospital and then they get sepsis or they let them bleed out and don't do anything. Or they don't feed them for a long time and the kid ends up malnourished. They didn't actively hurt the child. They just let nature take its course when they're responsible for taking care of that child. Those people usually don't have a record by the time we get to them," Douthit added.
An autopsy will reveal a cause of death for the 3-year-old victim.
His parents could face different charges in the future, like murder, when the case is presented to the grand jury, Douthit stated.
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