On December 23, 22-day-old Betsey Stephens died from starvation and neglect after going at least seven hours without nutrition. Her parents, Ruby and Roy Stephens, discovered that their baby was unresponsive when they went to remove her from her car seat.
The family was on a road trip from Tennyson, Indiana to Florida to see relatives for the Holidays when they stopped to eat. Apparently Betsey had been left alone in the car while her parents dined at Golden Corral; and when they returned she was dead. They called 911 but they were too late and Betsey was declared dead at the hospital.
Now Ruby and Roy are being charged with first-degree murder. Mike Link, the assistant chief of Lakeland Police, explained the child’s condition at a press conference.
He said, “‘When I saw the photographs…it shook me to my core because in thirty years, I have never seen anything like that.” At the time of Betsey’s death she weighed only 4Ibs 1 ounce, which is half of what most babies weigh at her age. Link also said that Betsey suffered tremendously for the 22 days she was alive.
Ruby Stephens told authorities that after arriving at their Comfort Inn hotel earlier December 23, she had checked the baby’s feet and covered them with a blanket because they were cold.
The family went to a restaurant on US Highway 98 North in Lakeland to eat with relatives. The chain Golden Corral touts an ‘endless buffet.’ When the mother went to take the baby out of a car seat just after 6pm, according to the arrest report, she noticed the baby was ‘completely unresponsive and cold to the touch.’
A medical examiner later determined the death was a homicide resulting from ‘starvation due to neglect,’ according to an arrest report. The baby had been dead for more than three hours before the parents took notice and called for help.
An autopsy found Betsey weighed only 4lbs 1 ounce at death, having shed about 2lbs since her birth. Normal weight for her age was about 8lbs, the medical examiner’s office noted.
The baby was also dehydrated and appeared not to have been fed for six to seven hours prior to her death, according to the report. Ruby Stephens told police that she had ‘strictly breastfed’ the baby every two-three hours on their way to Florida. But after police told her about the autopsy’s findings, she acknowledged that the baby likely had not been fed for much of their day-long road trip, with highway traffic making it difficult to exit to feed her.
The mother later told police that the infant had shown signs of health issues, but she had missed a December 18 doctor’s appointment to have her weight checked before the Florida trip.
Roy Stephens was not the biological father, the mother told authorities, and had not paid much attention to her from birth.’The obvious infidelity and subsequent pregnancy created a strain on the marriage,’ the arrest affidavit read.
Police said the couple from Tennyson, Indiana, were traveling with their 1-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. Both appeared healthy and have been taken into protective custody.
As LifeNews previously reported, death by starvation and dehydration is an inhumane and agonizing death. Bobby Schinder, the brother of Terri Schiavo, described his sister’s condition in her final days after the court ordered that her feeding tube be removed.
He said, “I watched my own sister, Terri Schiavo, anguish through almost two weeks without food or water and there are no words that can properly describe the inhumanity. In her last days, we would not permit our mother to visit Terri, in an effort to spare her additional torment, as blood pooled in Terri’s eyes, and her skin and lips were terribly cracked because her tissues were lacking any moisture. Terri’s body turned different colors of blue and yellow and her breathing became so rapid, it was as if she was outside sprinting. I could go on.”