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Parents Say Sons Starved Themselves

From Associated Press

A couple charged with starving their four adopted sons contend the boys starved themselves, telling a magazine the oldest son lied to authorities about conditions in the family’s home.

Raymond and Vanessa Jackson broke their 13-month silence in an interview with New York magazine. They are awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and child endangerment.

Prosecutors learned about the family in October 2003 after Bruce Jackson, then 19, was found foraging through a neighbor’s trash in Collingswood, N.J. He stood 4 feet tall and weighed 45 pounds. His three younger brothers were even smaller.

Raymond Jackson, 51, said his son misled investigators. “I know Bruce loves us,” Raymond Jackson, 51, said. “But sometimes I think about how my life is completely turned around. And it’s because he told a lie.”

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Authorities said the couple kept the boys from eating, and at points the children subsisted on pancake batter and gnawed on wallboard. The case drew public outcry and hastened reforms of New Jersey’s child services.

In their statements to officials, other children in the home contradicted Bruce Jackson’s statements, the magazine said.

Adopted daughter Keziah told an investigator that her mother “would try to get them to get strong, be like healthy and stuff. She would feed them vegetables, mashed potatoes.”

The Jacksons said the boys arrived in their home with eating disorders and described Bruce Jackson’s unusual eating habits.

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“He would eat practically everything that ... was edible,” Raymond Jackson said. “Peanut butter and jelly and milk and cookies and bread.... He would eat so much he threw up.”

Other family members said Bruce would draw the contents of his stomach back up to his mouth and chew his food again, possibly an indication he suffered from an eating disorder called rumination, which requires hospitalization to treat.

Vanessa Jackson, 49, said none of the children in the home -- including the couple’s four biological children -- received medical care during that period.

In the 13 months since the boys -- along with two adopted girls and a foster daughter -- were removed from the Jacksons’ home, each has grown taller and doubled in weight.

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