Saturday, December 4, 2010

Virginia mother charged with murder in death of 7-year-old disabled son, who died of severe dehydration, weighed only 28 pounds

From WAVY-TV in Virginia:

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- A seven-year-old disabled boy who died of severe dehydration and medical and nutritional neglect weighed only 28 pounds when he was found dead at home, according to investigators. That's just one of the very disturbing new facts discovered Dec. 3.

Police also say young Charles Poertner (pictured), who had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair with a feeding tube, was basically skin and bones and that his mother had left him on the floor in a diaper for several days and that he was covered in his own feces and dead bugs.

The boy's mother, Heather Poertner, 26, was arrested Dec. 2 and charged with felony murder and child neglect. obtained court documents that indicated Charles "was severely emaciated" when they found him on the living room floor of their house on 58th St. on June 7. The boy was on the hard wood floor "clothed only in a diaper and the area around his feeding tube was dirty and discolored," according to the criminal complaint.

"Dead fleas, debris, and other dirt were caked and present on the skin," detectives wrote in the complaint. On the day her son was found dead, Heather Poertner admitted she had left Charles "on the living room floor for an undetermined amount of time, but for at least several days, in the same position and location as his deceased body was found," according to the court document.

Investigators also wrote that the mother admitted that she had let her son's special prescription food for his feeding tube run out and she had replaced it with 'Mix 'n Drink instant non-fat dry milk.'

Detectives also described the living conditions at the house as deplorable and inhumane with dirty, moldy dishes and trash scattered everywhere and piles of dirty diapers throughout the house.

And Charles was not the only child living at that house. His two younger brothers were found there as well. Court documents say Heather's three-year-old son was found alive, but covered in dried fecal matter and locked in a bedroom dead-bolted from the outside so he couldn't get out. "There were "feces and urine on the mattress, walls and window and trash strewn about the room," according to court papers.

Heather's nine-month-old baby boy was found in his crib in a dirty diaper. The baby and the crib were both covered in urine and dried fecal matter, according to police. Bags of used diapers and piles of trash were also found in the baby's room.

The two youngest boys were immediately treated at a local hospital. Police say they have been living out-of-state with their paternal grandparents and are said to be doing fine.

Heather Poertner is in jail, charged with felony murder, which is a version of "2nd degree murder while in the commission of a felony," the felony being child neglect.

In addition to the murder charge, the mother is charged with three counts of felony child neglect, one each for Charles and his two brothers.

Police say the boys' father is in the navy and was deployed at the time, so he is not being charged with anything.