BROWN COUNTY, Ohio - Police in Ohio rescued a severely malnourished 11-year-old child after acting on a tip from a teacher who told authorities the girl told her she was hungry.
The girl was wearing a diaper and weighed just 47 pounds when she was found at a home in Georgetown in September, according to an Associated Press story published this week. Authorities were led to the homeschooled student after a teacher administering an online test heard her say she was only allowed to eat a small plate of rice each day.
Since then, the girl’s legal custodian, 47-year-old Margaret Breeze, was charged in early November with child endangering, kidnapping and felonious assault. She has pleaded not guilty and as of Friday remains in the county jail, about 40 miles east of Cincinnati. The Brown County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed late Thursday that her husband, Charles Breeze, was taken into custody as well. He faces the same charges as his wife, according to WLWT.
Authorities found the girl severely malnourished and living in filth. Her weight at the time of her discovery was approximately 30 pounds under the average weight for a girl her age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And investigators, the AP says, believe she had been mostly isolated at home and mistreated for at least the past three years.
“It’s just a wonder she got out of there when she did,” Brown County Prosecutor Zac Corbin said, noting that the girl was, at times, forced to sleep on a urine-stained mattress, made to wear a diaper and stay inside a locked trailer monitored by a security camera. “Where she was kept, it was not livable.”
The girl was homeschooled and taking the test from home so that she could remain being taught there, authorities said.
She had been living with Breeze since she was 6 years old after a court in Kentucky granted her custody, according to Corbin, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether they were related. He added that Breeze last took her to a doctor when she was 8 and records from that visit showed she weighed 51 pounds then, meaning she had lost 4 pounds during the past three years.
The teacher who alerted investigators noticed that her student was having trouble paying attention and asked her what was wrong, sheriff’s detective Quinn Carlson told The News Democrat of Georgetown, which first reported the arrest this week.
After the girl was rescued, she spent two weeks in the hospital and was diagnosed with a disorder brought on by severe malnutrition and usually only seen in people from undeveloped areas of the world experiencing famine, Corbin said Wednesday.
But she’s doing much better now and has gained about 15 pounds, authorities say.
Investigators are now said to be looking into whether there are other suspects or people who could have helped the girl.
There were other children living in the house, but there were no signs they had been mistreated, Corbin said. Those children also have been removed from the home, a converted church that sat alongside a cemetery.
Authorities did recover recordings of the child being yelled at and threatened, but it’s unclear who was yelling, he added.
Carlson, according to the AP, says the family denied abusing the girl and said they kept a camera in her room because she would attempt to escape the house.
Fox News’ Thairy Lantigua and the Associated Press contributed to this report.