A father and stepmother suspected of starving a 2-year-old boy until his heart stopped admitted to purposely skipping doctor visits and hiding food from the child, recently released court records reveal.
Police arrested Morgan Lege, 25, and Edmundo Munoz, 31, both of Chandler, Wednesday after a two-month investigation found the boy’s health greatly deteriorated over an 18-month period while in their care.
Police learned of the case from doctors after Lege brought the child into Chandler Regional Medical Center April 26.
She said she found the toddler lying in his bed with “eyes open with a very glazed, non-focused look,” records show. By the time they reached the hospital, the boy was limp and unresponsive.
Medical staff took him to the emergency room and began CPR. They were able to stabilize the boy, who was transferred to Banner Desert Medical Center’s intensive care unit in critical condition.
Doctors described the child’s condition as “dramatic” and that it was as if he had been left in a “prison camp,” records show.
“This is way out there,” Dr. Glenn Diebert said. “This is a 10 on a scale of 10.”
Neighbors in the small Chandler subdivision on Sunday said the couple moved in about three months ago, which was about the only time they saw the child.
One woman, who asked that her name not be published, said the child was so small, she thought he was a lot younger. On the few occasions she saw signs that a child even lived with the couple, Lege or Munoz was carrying the boy around in a hand-held infant carrier.
“I thought it was a six- or seven-months-old baby in there,” she said.
Most of the neighbors in the area keep to themselves, said Tim Schup, who lives there, and beyond a neighborly wave “hello” or “goodbye” there is little interaction among them. However, this news has left many of the families, several with their own young children, in disbelief.
“I have kids and when I heard about that kid, I felt really, really bad,” Schup said.
The boy weighed only 12 pounds when he arrived at the hospital. He had severe malnutrition and was in respiratory and cardiac arrest.
Doctors ran several tests on the child and found no medical causes for the boy’s condition. They determined that the cause was likely parental neglect, records show.
“When everything is ruled out that way, we’re down to malnutrition ... you know, basic starvation,” Dr. Jeanette Camacho told police.
Medical records revealed the boy was healthy and growing at a normal rate from birth to 7 months.
But when he was 5 months old, Munoz told police the child’s biological mother abandoned him and left the child in his care. During the next few months, the boy’s health worsened and he dropped weight, records show.
Doctors classified his condition as serious during those months and recommended several visits and therapy. But police found that Munoz and Lege skipped and canceled many of those appointments, records show.
The couple also admitted to police they reduced the boy’s food intake and, while he was in the hospital, hid his food because they felt the hospital staff was feeding him too much, records show.
They also told officers that they didn’t take the boy to the hospital because he “never got sick,” records show.
Munoz and Lege could not be reached for comment. They were being held at Maricopa County’s Fourth Avenue Jail on $150,000 bond each.
The boy is with a foster family. Since being released, he has nearly doubled his weight and his health has continually improved, records show.