Teen starved for years in 'horrendous' case of abuse

Teen starved for years in 'horrendous' case of abuse »Play Video
CARNATION, Wash. -- The parents of a 14-year-old girl have been charged after she was found badly malnourished.

Jon Pomeroy, the girl's biological father, and Rebecca Long, the girl's step mother, are each charged with first- and second-degree criminal mistreatment.

Sheriff spokesman John Urquhart says the girl weighed only 48 pounds when contacted by deputies Friday, and had been given only little food and water for several years.

"This is a horrendous case of child abuse," Urquhart said. "It was described as a concentration camp survivor. That's what she looked like."

Urquhart says their investigation began on Aug. 13 when Child Protective Services was called to the home in the 31200 block of Northeast 114th Court after neighbors reported hearing screaming the night before.

"I asked, 'Is everything OK? We hear screaming. Is anyone hurt? Do you need help?'" said Adrienne Hale, a neighbor. "A minute or so later we heard them shut their window."

Deputies interviewed the girl privately when her father told detectives she was the one screaming.

The girl told deputies her mother disciplined her by restricting her water intake, and was primarily given toast to eat. She said she hadn't seen a doctor in several years.

She and her 12-year-old brother were taken from the home by Child Protective Services and the girl was admitted to Children's Hospital for treatment of severe malnutrition. She was in the hospital for two weeks.

During the investigation, investigators said they found the girl's mother restricted her water intake to about half of a small Dixie cup per day. The mother only let the girl shower every two or three weeks, and watched her during each shower and bathroom break to keep the girl from surreptitiously drinking water, Urquhart said.

"She looked more like she was 8 or 9 years old. Clearly very, very malnourished," Urquhart said. "All of her teeth had to be either pulled or capped."

The girl and her brother were forced to sleep on the floor in the same room as their parents, and a heavy dresser was pushed in front of the door to keep her from sneaking out and getting water, Urquhart said. The girl said the dresser was placed there after she was caught one night sneaking out of her own room to drink water from the toilet.

The girl told deputies that on one occasion, her mother duct-taped her hands behind her back and dunked her head in the toilet as a form of discipline.

Detectives searched the home and found the girl's room had a double deadbolt on the door used to keep her locked in the room. They also collected evidence that the family had health insurance and that her little brother had seen a doctor in the last few years.

Urquhart said the family's two dogs were in good health and had recent trips to a veterinary clinic.

"It's freaky. It makes me sick that was going on and we didn't know anything about it," said Hale.

Once in protective custody, the girl underwent a medical evaluation and doctors found all of her teeth to be eroded and chipped. They said those problems likely stemmed from extreme dehydration.

Investigators said based on a medical exam of the girl about five years ago, she was in the 10th percentile on the growth chart, and hasn't grown much since then; currently she is well below the first percentile. She has also not had any weight gain since she was 9 years old.

The detective handling the case has been investigating abuse and neglect for 16 years and said it was the worst case of child abuse he had ever seen, Urquhart said.

Detectives do not believe either child has had any schooling in years.

Deputies arrested the girl's 43-year-old father and 44-year-old mother on Friday at their Carnation home for investigation of first degree Criminal Mistreatment. The parents were released Saturday on their own recognizance.

If convicted as charged, Jon Pomeroy and Rebecca Long could face up to 48 months in prison. They are scheduled to be arraigned October 27.

Pomeroy is a software engineer and Long does not work outside the home. Urquhart said it was not clear what prompted the mistreatment.

"We're all asking ourselves why," he said. "We're looking for some sort of an explanation, but we haven't found one."

The girl and her brother are currently in foster care and doing well.

"They're doing much better. The girl has gained over 20 pounds," Urquhart said.