Boy Starves; Parents Charged With Murder

United Press International

A father and his pregnant wife were charged Friday with the first-degree murder of a severely malnourished 5-year-old boy who weighed only 22 pounds.

George Clarke was unconscious and suffering from double pneumonia when he was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at Tampa General Hospital on Thursday. He died about 4 a.m. Friday.

Barry Alan Clarke, 29, and Melanie Ann Clarke, 27, were arrested on the first-degree murder charges while in the custody of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department on charges of aggravated child abuse filed Thursday.

The child's body was taken to the county medical examiner's office for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

But in the probable cause affidavit filed by deputies, investigators said both parents made written and oral statements that they had not fed the child since March in order to punish him.

Took Him to Hospital

Sgt. Gordon Davis said Clarke called the Child Abuse Hotline when he was unable to awaken the boy, then took him to the hospital.

The couple admitted having kept the boy locked in a bedroom for most of the last three months for disciplinary reasons, deputies said.

Investigators said they don't know how often the boy was fed or allowed to leave the room, but said the couple said they gave him bread, water and peanut butter when he behaved.

They said Clarke told them that he began disciplining the boy by not feeding him and locking him in the room about three months ago when the child wouldn't eat when told to do so.

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