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Autopsy report: 6-year-old Flagstaff boy died of starvation

June 8, 2020 GMT
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A memorial for a 6-year-old boy in Flagstaff, Arizona, grows on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, as residents add stuffed animals, balloons, candles and messages for the child. Police have arrested the boy's parents and grandmother on suspicion of murder and child abuse in the boy's death. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)
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A memorial for a 6-year-old boy in Flagstaff, Arizona, grows on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, as residents add stuffed animals, balloons, candles and messages for the child. Police have arrested the boy's parents and grandmother on suspicion of murder and child abuse in the boy's death. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A 6-year-old Flagstaff boy who authorities say was locked in a closet and deprived of food weighed just 18 pounds when he died — well below average for his age, according to an autopsy report.

The boy’s parents, Elizabeth Archibeque and Anthony Martinez, and his grandmother, Ann Martinez, have been charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and child abuse charges in his death. They have pleaded not guilty.

An autopsy report determined that Deshaun Martinez died of starvation and listed the manner of death as homicide. Prosecutors have until late July to decide whether they will seek capital punishment in the case.

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Police say they responded to the Flagstaff apartment where Deshaun lived with his family in early March and found him unresponsive. His parents initially attributed their son’s malnourished state to a medical condition and to ingesting diet or caffeine pills. Eventually, they told police they kept Deshaun and his older brother in a closet for 16 hours a day and gave them little to eat.

Police said the boys’ confinement was punishment for stealing food while the parents slept.

Deshaun’s medical history showed he had trouble gaining weight, according to the autopsy report. He was hospitalized at two weeks old due to sepsis and a urinary tract infection that resulted in fevers and vomiting at every feed. Before being discharged after a 10-day stay, his parents were counseled on how to keep him at a healthy weight, the report said.

Deshaun’s weight climbed to 34 pounds at age 4 but dropped to 27 pounds a year later and 18 pounds when he died — the same weight he was at age 1. Medical examiner Lawrence Czarnecki said that put Deshaun in the third percentile for his age and said he was in a “non-life-sustaining state of starvation.”

Elizabeth Archibeque told police Deshaun was “fed a lot” but gained little weight. Anthony Martinez said the family was on a budget and was awaiting food stamps to buy more fatty food for Deshaun.

Czarnecki noted the boy had a skeletal appearance with skin stretched over his bones and almost no body fat. His skin was depressed into the cavities of his face. His eyes were sunken and surrounded by dark circles. His hair was brittle.

The boy also had abrasions and bruises on his body that weren’t life-threatening, according to the autopsy report.