LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A judge in suburban Atlanta on Friday ruled there is enough evidence against a man and his 23-year-old daughter accused in the starvation death of the man's baby daughter to allow them to be prosecuted.
The case will be transferred to Gwinnett County Superior Court, where the pair will be able to ask a judge to release them on bond, Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Blum said.
The two were arrested after the 44-year-old man arrived at an Atlanta area hospital around 11:20 p.m. on Nov. 11 with his 15-month-old daughter and said the girl wasn't breathing. The child was already dead, and hospital staff called police after noticing she looked abused and neglected.
"The nurse described the baby as looking like a skeleton," Gwinnett County police Det. James Sweeney testified at a preliminary hearing Friday, adding that the child had no fat on her and weighed only 7 1/2 pounds.
At an extended stay motel where the man was living, officers found his 23-year-old daughter, a 21-year-old woman who weighed only 59 pounds and three severely malnourished children, police have said. Two 3-year-olds each weighed just under 20 pounds and a 5-year-old weighed about 30 pounds, Sweeney testified.
The 21-year-old was the mother of the 15-month-old and one of the 3-year-olds. The man's 23-year-old daughter is the mother of the other two children found in the room and is pregnant with another child. The man is the father of all the children.
Police have charged the man and his daughter with felony and malice murder and cruelty to children. The man was also charged with rape, incest and aggravated sodomy of his daughter.
Prosecutor Rich Vandever on Friday dropped a charge of cruelty to a physically disabled adult against each of them.
The Associated Press does not identify possible victims of sexual crimes and isn't naming the man because that could identify the daughter.
Officers said it seemed like the 21-year-old woman was trying to speak to them but was unable to, Sweeney testified. A detective called an ambulance for the woman after realizing she was "very skinny to the point where they could see the outlines of her bones," he said.
The three children found in the room appeared frail and had trouble walking, Sweeney said. A doctor found that they had rickets, a disorder that can be caused by deficiency of certain nutrients. All three were hospitalized for just over two weeks and were turned over to state custody.
The 23-year-old woman told police her father had been forcing her to have non-consensual sexual intercourse with him biweekly for several years, Sweeney testified. She said he also forced her to perform oral sex on him more often than that, Sweeney said. She told police that early on she told him no, but as time wore on it became routine and she stopped protesting, Sweeney said.
The man's attorney, Walt Britt, asked Sweeney about the arrest and questioning of his client. Under questioning by the daughter's attorney, Charles Wrinkle, Sweeney testified that there were leafy green vegetables in the refrigerator in the room at the extended stay motel and that anyone who could reach the deadbolt could leave.