A Michigan man who, along with his wife, is facing felony murder charges in the death of their 10-month-old daughter, called a lawyer before calling 911 after finding the baby unresponsive in her crib in August, according to a recording played in court Wednesday.
When the 911 dispatcher asked if little Mary was beyond help when he found her, Seth Welch answered with certainty.
“Oh yeah,” he is heard saying on the recording. “She was dead as a doornail.”
Kent County prosecutors allege that Welch and Tatiana Fusari, both 27, allowed the child to starve to death, FOX 17 of West Michigan reported.
“It is as horrific as it gets,” Judge Sara Smolenski said, according to MLive.com. “The skeletal-like posture of the child, in my opinion, speaks volumes, for how long the baby was not cared for properly. The 10-month-old baby weighed eight pounds at death.”
A forensic pathologist said the girl died of “malnutrition associated with dehydration due to neglect of adult caregivers.” But Welch’s attorney argued the child suffered from a metabolic disorder that prevented her from absorbing nutrients.
The pathologist said he found no metabolic diseases or parasites in the girl.
Welch, who was visibly upset in court listening to the 911 call, told a dispatcher that he put Mary to bed at 3 p.m. the day before and checked on her at 10 a.m. in his Solon Township home.
When he found her not breathing, he said he first called his attorney.
“I called my lawyer … to ask what’s the best thing I can do, and they said wait until they’re here to call police,” Welch told the dispatcher. “I was waiting on legal counsel.”
“I guess I don’t know if this is the right place to report this to. … One of my children is dead,” he continued.
When the dispatcher asked how he was holding up, he said: “You know, just another day. It is what it is.”
The couple told police that the child had been sick, but they didn’t seek medical attention for religious reasons.
They didn’t trust health-care providers because they were reported to Child Protective Services after they disagreed with a doctor recommendation for care of their older daughter, FOX 17 of West Michigan reported.
During a search of the home, authorities found limited baby food, flies and mice feces in drawers throughout the house, the paper reported.
Fusari told authorities she breastfed Mary before going to her job at McDonald’s but neither parent fed the child after that. They did not go into Mary’s room until the next day, the paper said.
An investigator said that Mary was skinny like her older sister was at that age and that Welch showed no emotion.
“To my recollection, during the interviews I conducted … he has never expressed or shown any emotion regarding Mary’s care or ultimate demise,” the investigator said.