Three people have been arrested after the death of a 34-month-old girl who weighed less than 10 pounds, including the toddler’s parents.
Her parents, Regis Johnson, 57, and Arhonda Tillman, 35, were arrested Thursday and are being held without bail on child abuse charges, CBS Miami reported. Her uncle, Frank Robinson, 64, who lived in the same home, was also arrested for negligent child abuse and failure to report child abuse, according to the station.
Sheriff’s deputies in Polk County, Fla., found the child dead in an inflatable pool being used as a playpen on Tuesday, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. The girl’s father had called authorities after finding her “cold to the touch and not breathing,” the sheriff’s department said.
The Florida Department of Children and Families had been investigating the family for medical negligence from 2019 because the child was losing weight and his parents were not following his doctor, authorities said, but the investigation had been closed when the child had gained weight. The girl’s pediatrician told investigators that her last visit was in January 2020 and that the office attempted to follow up with her parents, authorities said.
The child’s father and mother told investigators they tried to feed the girl. According to the sheriff’s office, Johnson told detectives the girl hadn’t wanted to eat for the past two days, only taking a few bites when he tried to feed her. Tillman said in an interview with detectives that she tried to feed the child a turkey sandwich on Monday night before bed, but the victim wouldn’t eat, the sheriff’s office said.
Johnson also told detectives he knew his daughter was “not gaining weight and not developing normally”, and that he “knew the victim was losing weight and not thriving” and still had no consulted a doctor, authorities said.
Tillman told detectives the child feared he had cystic fibrosis. An autopsy on Wednesday showed there was no food in the child’s stomach and she was suffering from long-term starvation.
Jail records did not list an attorney for Johnson, Tillman or Robinson, CBS Miami reported.
“This is egregious and should never have happened,” Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday, noting that there are resources for parents who don’t want their child. “Because of the actions of these parents, this little girl will never have the opportunity to grow up.”